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FIRES  AND  FIRE-FIGHTERS 
JOHN  KENLON 


FIRES    AND 
FIRE-FIGHTERS 


A  History  of  Modern  Fire-Fighting 

with  a  Review  of  Its  Development 

from  Earliest  Times 


BY 

JOHN  KENLON 


CHIEF  OF  NEW  Yo         FIRE  DEPARTMENT 


WITH    ILLUSTRATIONS    FROM 
PHOTOGRAPHS 


NEW  YORK 
GEORGE  H.  DORAN  COMPANY 


Copyright,  1913, 
By  GEORGE  H.  DORAN  COMPANY 


DEDICATED 

TO 

MY    COMRADES 

THE    MEMBERS    OF 

THE    INTERNATIONAL   ASSOCIATION 
OF   FIRE    ENGINEERS 


270947 


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 


The   Author   desires   to  make   special  and  grateful 
acknowledgment , 

To  Mr.  Alan  Lethbridge  for  his  gracious  and  'valuable 
assistance  in  the  preparation  of  this  book. 

To  Mr.  Wilbur  E.  Mallalieu,  General  Agent  of  The 
National  Board  of  Fire  Underwriters  for  help  in  the 
preparation  of  statistical  tables  and  for  the  use  of 
some  special  photographs. 

To  Mr.  Edwin  O.  Sachs  and  his  co-directors  in  the 
British  Fire  Prevention  Association  for  permission 
to  use  material  and  pictures  from  the  reports  of  their 
Association. 

To  Mr.  Frederick  Smythe  for  the  use  of  photographs. 


CONTENTS 

CHAPTER  PAGE 

I      INTRODUCTION I 

II      FIRE  FIGHTING  IN  ANCIENT  ROME    ...  7 

III  THE  EVOLUTION  OF  FIRE  FIGHTING   ...  12 

IV  "PAST  AND   PRESENT."      REMINISCENCES  OF  A 

FIREFIGHTER   .                     .          .          .          .          .  22 

V      THE  FRENCH  FIRE  FIGHTER        ..-.        .          .          .  45 

VI      FIRE  FIGHTING  IN  GERMANY      ....  64 

Vn      FIRE  DEPARTMENTS  OF  MIDDLE  EUROPE   (AUS- 

TRO-HUNGARY,  SWITZERLAND  AND  ITALY)     .  79 

VIII      THE   TRADE   OF  ARSON          ......  94 

IX      GASOLINE  AND  GARAGES      .          .          .          .          .  ICK) 

X      GREAT   FIRES   AND   HOW    THEY   WERE    FOUGHT 

(i.)  .       ....•..'•.      ......  118 

XI      GREAT   FIRES  AND   HOW   THEY   WERE   FOUGHT 

(II.)  .                                                                .                     .  148 

XII      THE    HOTEL    PERIL       .          .          .          .          .          .  I7O 

XIII  THEATRES    AND    FIRE    PANICS    .          .          .          .185 

XIV  THE   HIGH    PRESSURE  SYSTEM    .          .          .          .197 

XV      FIRE    CONTROL    IN    SCHOOLS,    FACTORIES    AND 

HOSPITALS          .          .          .          .          .          .          .  208 

XVI      FIRE  FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM         .  225 

XVII      THE  NEW  YORK  FIRE  DEPARTMENT   .          .          .  247 

XVIII      SEA  PORT  PROBLEMS    .          .          .          >          .          .  263 

XIX       FIRE  STRATEGY  IN  THE  HOMES  OF  THE  PEOPLE  278 

vii 


viii  CONTENTS 

CHAPTER  PAGE 

xx  "QUICK  BURNERS"     .        .       .       .        .^       .  291 

XXI  THE  PROBLEM  OF  THE  SKYSCRAPER   .           .           .  306 

XXII  APPARATUS  FOR  FIRE  FIGHTING  .          .           .           -317 

XXIII  TWO  PLATOON  SYSTEM         .....  333 

XXIV  UNDERWRITERS   AND  SALVAGE   CORPS        ..          .  337 
XXV      CONCLUSION 347 

APPENDIX 357 


ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

Chief   Kenlon Frontispiece 

Doorway  in  Atrium  of  the  old  Roman  Watch  Station 6 

The  "Roman"  Ladder.     Details  of  Construction  and  Method  of 

Raising 10 

The  "Modem  Risks"  Cart  of  the  Technical  Company  of  Lucerne  .  14 

Cantiniere  of  a  French  Rural  Fire  Brigade 18 

"First  Aid"  Hydrant  and  Hook  and  Ladder  Cart  of  Lucerne  ...  24 

Struggling  through  the  Drifts  of  the  Great  Blizzard 30 

The  Gennevilliers  Gas  Works  Fire  Brigade.     Life-saving  Truck  .     .  38 

French  Steam-Motor  Engine 52 

French  "Turn  Out."     Petrol  Motor  Pump  and  Petrol  Motor  Lorries  56 

Type  of  Modern  Apparatus  Used  in  European  Cities 66 

Hamburg.     Electromobile  Tractor  Hauling  Steam  Fire  Engine    .     .  72 

Vienna  Professional  Fire  Brigade.     Pneumatic  8o-foot  Long  Ladder  .  80 

Buda-Pesth  Volunteer  Fire  Brigade.     Benzine  Motor  Fire  Engine  .  84 

Incipient  "Fire-bugs" 96 

Before  the  Alarm  is  Turned  In no 

Smoky  Fire,  New  York 114 

Baltimore  Fire.     Skeleton  Steel  Construction 132 

Equitable  Fire,  Corner  of  Broadway  and  Cedar  Street 138 

Equitable  Building,  Corner  of  Broadway 142 

Engine  at  Equitable  Fire 146 

Progress  of  the  San  Francisco  Fire:  First  Period 152 

Dangerous  Work 166 

Quick  Burner 178 

Modern  Theatre.     New  York  City 186 

Capacity  Test.     High  Pressure  System,  New  York 198 

Switch-board  at  High  Pressure  Pumping  Station 206 

Water  Tower  at  Work 214 

Electrically  Operated  Hook  and  Ladder  Truck 248 

Tractor-drawn  Steam  Fire  Engine 252 

Combination  Chemical  and  Hose  Wagon 256 

Assignment  Card 260 


ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

Oil  Fire 264 

Dock  Fire,  Jersey  City .  268 

James  Duane  in  Action       276 

Responding  to  an  Alarm 280 

Leaving  for  a  Fire 288 

Old  Style.     Poor  Construction 292 

Smoky  Fire.     Toronto,  Canada 300 

Diagrams  Showing  Piping  of  Tall  Buildings 310 

Typical  New  York  Horse-drawn  Fire  Engine 318 

Water  Tower  Frozen  In 322 

Search  Lights 326 

Diagram  of  Effective  Vertical  Reach  of  Fire  Streams 330 

Resuscitating  Firemen  Overcome  by  Smoke 336 

Fire-fighting  Practice 342 

New  York  Fire  Station       350 

Testing  Kit 360 


FIRES  AND  FIRE-FIGHTERS 


CHAPTER  I 

INTRODUCTION 

A  COMMON  axiom  amongst  fire-fighters  is  that  no  defin- 
ite rules  can  be  formulated,  which  wholly  embody  the 
principles  of  their  craft.  It  is  argued  that  since  no  two  fires 
are  absolutely  alike  in  all  respects,  that  which  would  be 
efficacious  in  one  instance  would  be  absolutely  futile  in 
another.  This  proposition  is  fallacious.  Physicians  might 
just  as  well  advance  the  theory  that  since  no  two  indi- 
viduals are  constitutionally  alike,  it  is  useless  to  apply  the 
same  treatment  for  some  well  known  disease,  even  with 
those  modifications  necessitated  by  physical  differences.  Of 
tourse  this  is  a  "reductio  ad  absurdum,"  since  doctors  study 
their  patients  scientifically,  following  general  principles  re- 
sulting from  experience,  only  varied  in  minor  details 
according  to  the  exigencies  of  the  case.  Similarly,  notwith- 
standing differences  in  construction  and  occupancy,  it  is  per- 
fectly feasible  to  fight  fires  with  intelligence  born  of 
systematic  acquaintance  with  certain  fixed  data,  and  it  may 
be  added,  with  some  degree  of  scientific  exactitude.  As 
there  are  prime  factors  in  the  treatment  of  illness,  particu- 
larly if  it  be  contagious,  such  as  the  removal  of  the  patient 
to  a  place  where  it  is  almost  impossible  for  the  disease  to  be 
communicated  to  others,  so  it  is  with  fire.  The  first  general 
principles  to  be  observed  include  naturally  the  confinement 
of  an  outbreak  to  as  narrow  a  space  as  possible,  the  safety 
of  contiguous  property,  the  prevention  of  loss  of  life  and 
the  centralization  of  the  outbreak  as  a  whole.  To  this 
must  be  added  the  concentration  upon  the  point  of  greatest 
danger  of  all  the  forces  at  the  command  of  the  officer  in 

i 


2  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

charge.  In  the  following  chapters  an  attempt  has  been 
made  to  deal  with  this  subject  in  such  a  manner  that  while 
the  professional  fire-fighter  shall  find  much  information 
which  will  be  of  value  to  him,  the  lay  reader  shall  likewise 
discover  material  for  thought,  as  well  as  food  for  the 
imagination. 

It  has  been  estimated  that  no  less  than  64  per  cent,  of  all 
fires  occur  in  the  homes  of  the  people,  and  though  these  may 
not  be  attended  by  the  tremendous  financial  losses  conse- 
quent upon  outbreak  in  warehouses,  office  buildings  and  the 
like,  they  strike  fear  into  the  heart  in  a  greater  degree,  for 
it  is  the  human  hazard  which  is  at  stake. 

Few  realize,  also,  the  unremitting  labor,  the  devotion 
to  service,  the  daily  acts  of  heroism,  the  mental  and  phy- 
sical strain,  and  the  inadequate  acknowledgment  in  many 
instances  by  the  public  of  the  achievements  of  the  genus 
fireman.  Not  that  he  wishes  to  be  advertised,  but  since 
the  soldier,  the  sailor  and  even  the  policeman  loom  large 
in  general  estimation,  it  seems  only  just  that  something 
should  be  written  illustrative  of  the  responsibilities  en- 
trusted to  his  charge.  To  how  many  people  does  it  ever 
occur  that  negligence  on  the  part  of  a  policeman  may  re- 
sult in  the  loss  by  robbery  of  a  few  thousand  dollars  or 
the  sacrifice  of  at  most  two  or  three  human  lives  by  mur- 
der; while  the  same  fault  on  the  part  of  a  fireman  may 
entail  some  hideous  disaster  involving  scores  of  lives  or  the 
loss  of  millions  of  dollars.  Further,  is  it  realized,  that 
whereas  the  soldier  or  sailor  risks  his  life  for  his  country 
at  rare  intervals,  the  fireman  takes  the  same  chances  regu- 
larly in  the  course  of  his  daily  avocation. 

Thus  it  will  be  seen  that  no  occupation  or  career  should 
make  greater  appeal  to  the  sympathy  and  interest  of  the 
public  than  that  of  the  firemen  who  constitute  a  force  which 
stands  for  much  and  without  which  the  insecurity  of  life 
would  be  increased  tenfold. 

In  addition,  the  advance  of  science  and  the  evolution  of 
the  simple  building  into  the  highly  complex  structure 
necessitated  by  modern  requirements  have  in  their  turn 


INTRODUCTION  3 

caused  a  corresponding  advance  in  the  theory  and  practice 
of  fire-fighting.  Questions  of  such  import  as  the  allevia- 
tion of  congestion  in  crowded  districts,  the  provision  of 
suitable  accommodation  for  domestic  and  business  prem- 
ises and  the  supply  of  the  minimum  of  light  and  air  com- 
patible with  modern  ideas  of  hygiene,  have  led  architects 
to  find  their  only  solution  in  the  piling  up  of  story  upon 
story  till,  with  the  Woolworth  building  in  New  York, 
realms  of  space  hitherto  unpierced  except  by  the  Eiffel 
Tower  have  surrendered  to  their  all-conquering  demand. 
And  finality  has  by  no  means  been  reached  in  this  direction. 
No  wonder,  therefore,  that  those  responsible  for  fire  control 
have  paused,  perplexed  momentarily  at  the  problems  con- 
fronting them.  Generally  speaking,  except  under  the  rar- 
est of  circumstances,  it  is  only  possible  to  fight  fires  from 
the  street  up  to  a  height  of  seven  stories,  after  that  reliance 
must  be  placed  upon  the  fire  appliances  within  the  building 
coupled  with  the  tactical  skill  of  the  firemen  in  using  the 
same.  This  is  one  of  the  instances  in  which  the  scientific 
training  of  a  fire  department  is  manifested.  The  isolation 
of  elevator  shafts,  the  prevention  of  flames  being  drawn 
from  floor  to  floor  through  windows  and  the  avoidance  of 
that  most  dangerous  enemy,  back  draught,  constitute  fea- 
tures of  enormous  significance. 

Similarly  fire  apparatus  has  grown  in  complexity  and  its 
handling  requires  a  corresponding  degree  of  judgment  and 
skill.  The  old  days  of  the  manual  have  gone  forever,  and 
though  for  many  centuries  little  advance  was  made  in  the 
mechanical  aspect  of  fire-fighting  equipment,  the  last  fifty 
years  have  witnessed  a  complete  revolution  in  the  means 
and  methods  employed.  As  the  hand  drawn  "manual"  gave 
way  to  the  horse  drawn  steam  engine,  so  has  the  latter  in 
its  turn  been  succeeded  by  the  automobile  gasoline  pump. 
Likewise  the  Roman  ladder,  which  for  years  marked  the 
limit  of  human  ingenuity  as  applied  to  means  of  entry  to 
and  rescue  from  burning  buildings,  has  been  superseded  to 
a  large  extent  by  mechanically  operated  extension  ladders 
of  great  length.  Such  apparatus  as  water  towers,  search- 


4  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

lights,  high  pressure  pumps,  dangerous  structure  traps  and 
so  forth,  presuppose  a  high  degree  of  scientific  skill  and 
technical  knowledge  on  the  part  of  the  fire-fighter,  who  may 
thus  legitimately  claim  to  belong  to  a  well  defined  profes- 
sion. Since  appliances  vary  in  different  parts  of  the  world, 
according  to  local  needs,  the  author  has  included  in  this 
volume  some  slight  account  of  the  equipment  and  methods 
of  foreign  departments,  which  would  prove  serviceable  for 
purposes  of  comparison.  Equally,  full  descriptions  will  be 
found  of  the  most  modern  mechanical  devices  in  use,  which 
it  is  hoped  will  be  of  real  service  to  those  who  are  interested 
in  the  subject  from  a  practical  standpoint.  There  is  no 
doubt  that  at  last  the  world  has  awakened  to  the  economic 
importance  of  fire  control.  Insurance  risks  have  become 
so  stupendous  that  those  involved  financially  in  the  same, 
demand  the  acme  of  scientific  foresight  and  the  maximum 
of  human  enterprise  towards  the  protection  of  their  capi- 
tal. It  is  true  that  in  some  quarters  there  is  a  regrettable 
tendency  to  gamble  on  fire  risks,  which  brings  in  its  train 
sporadic  outbursts  of  incendiarism,  whereby,  in  many  cases, 
human  lives  are  jeopardized.  But  with  the  exposure  of 
such  dubious  modes  of  increasing  business  and  with  a 
realization  of  their  results,  it  seems  beyond  question  that 
saner  and  wiser  counsels  will  prevail. 

These  are  days  of  keen  competition  as  applied  to  the 
search  after  a  bare  livelihood  and  the  pay  and  prospects 
of  the  fireman  are  such  that  they  well  merit  the  attention 
of  young  men  with  ambition  and  brains.  The  life  is  a 
healthy,  if  strenuous  one,  while  the  position  of  Fire  Chief, 
at  any  rate  in  America,  is  within  reach  of  all  comers  and 
the  goal  one  to  be  envied.  Should  this  work  prove  to 
be  the  means  of  encouraging  the  right  type  of  man  to 
come  forward,  then  the  writer  will  be  happy  in  the  knowl- 
edge that  his  labour  has  not  been  in  vain. 

It  will  be  noticed  that  a  chapter  has  been  devoted  to  a 
consideration  of  how  best  to  deal  with  fires  in  private 
houses  and  the  most  prolific  causes  of  these  outbreaks. 
Carelessness  can  never  be  wholly  eradicated  from  human 


INTRODUCTION  5 

nature,  but  this  same  failing  is  one  of  the  prime  factors 
constituting  the  fire  risk  of  the  citizen.  Not  long  since  a 
guest  in  a  hotel  thoughtlessly  threw  away  a  lighted  cigar- 
ette end  into  a  waste  paper  basket.  In  due  course  the 
contents  burst  into  flames,  set  alight  the  curtains,  and 
eventually  involved  the  whole  floor  of  the  building,  caus- 
ing incidentally  the  loss  of  three  lives.  That  same  story 
is  repeated  week  by  week  and  day  by  day  the  world  over, 
and  yet  the  lesson  never  seems  to  be  appreciated.  Hence, 
the  next  best  thing  to  prevention  being  cure,  an  attempt 
has  been  made  in  the  chapter  indicated  to  formulate  certain 
simple  rules  which  if  followed  will  go  a  long  way  towards 
controlling  the  blaze  until  such  time  as  professional  help 
shall  arrive.  Further,  it  is  not  generally  realized  by  what 
means  fires  are  sometimes  started.  For  instance,  who 
would  ever  suspect  that  the  common  or  garden  rat  possessed 
all  the  qualities  of  an  incipient  fire-bug.  In  the  city  of 
Washington,  during  one  year,  36  outbreaks  arose  through 
rats  nibbling  at  the  ends  of  matches;  proof  sufficient  that 
where  fire  is  concerned  not  even  the  most  remote  possibili- 
ties can  be  overlooked  with  impunity. 

The  prevention  of  panic  in  schools,  shops,  factories  and 
the  like  is,  of  course,  one  of  the  most  important  features 
of  the  ethics  of  fire-fighting.  It  is  no  exaggeration  to  say 
that  as  many  people  are  killed  by  suffocation,  by  being 
trampled  to  death  and  by  unnecessarily  jumping  into  the 
streets,  as  are  actually  sacrificed  to  the  flames  themselves. 
Human  nature  is  easily  susceptible  of  control,  provided 
there  is  at  hand  a  sufficiently  strong  influence  to  inspire 
confidence  and  restore  nerve.  This  influence  must  be  a 
combination  of  self  possession  and  training;  with  this 
upon  which  to  draw,  panic  can  often  be  averted.  Thus  in 
schools,  teachers  should  be  trained  in  the  marshalling 
of  their  charges  in  the  same  way  that  employees  in  shops 
should  be  taught  to  look  after  the  safety  of  purchasers. 
The  timely  playing  of  the  orchestra  in  a  theatre  has  often 
prevented  disaster,  and  such  aids  are  worthy  of  more 
than  passing  attention.  All  this  has  received  careful  study 


6  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

in  the  chapter  devoted  to  the  subject  and  the  writer  con- 
fidently anticipates  that  if  his  advice  is  followed,  advice 
framed  upon  forty  years  of  actual  experience,  the  casual- 
ties due  to  fire  panics  will  be  appreciably  minimized. 

These  are  some  of  the  issues  connected  with  fire-fighting, 
which  have  been  dealt  with  in  as  exhaustive  and  interesting 
a  manner  as  possible  in  this  volume.  The  particular  inten- 
tion of  the  writer  has  been  to  avoid  lengthy  and  tedious 
explanations,  which  would  be  beyond  the  comprehension 
of  the  untrained  layman.  To  that  end  an  appendix  has 
been  supplied  replete  with  all  the  tables  necessary  to  the 
scientific  fireman.  For  the  rest,  the  problems  of  fire  control 
have  emerged  from  the  chrysalis  stage  of  experiment  into 
the  fully  developed  formulae  of  an  exact  science,  and  the 
time  has  arrived  when  no  one  can  afford  to  be  ignorant 
of  the  first  principles  governing  the  same.  A  great  quan- 
tity of  useless  information  is  assimilated  by  the  public; 
is  it  too  much  to  hope  that  opportunity  may  be  found  for 
the  perusal  of  a  subject  so  closely  connected  with  the 
welfare,  safety  and  homes  of  the  people. 


DOORWAY  IN  ATRIUM    OF   THE 
OLD  ROMAN   WATCH    STATION. 


CHAPTER  II 

FIRE-FIGHTING   IN    ANCIENT   ROME 

FROM  the  earliest  times  the  Romans  well  recognized  the 
ever  present  menace  of  fire  and  as  a  matter  of  precaution 
a  law  was  passed  compelling  the  erection  of  separate  houses, 
each  standing  in  its  own  plot  of  ground.  But  as  the  size 
of  the  city  increased  this  regulation  became  more  honored 
in  the  breach  than  in  the  observance,  with  the  result  that 
serious  conflagrations  occurred  frequently  and  thus  the  sub- 
ject of  effective  "fire-fighting"  was  forced  upon  the  atten- 
tion of  the  authorities.  Indeed,  there  is  nothing  surprising 
in  Rome  having  been  constantly  visited  by  such  calamities. 
The  houses  in  the  poorer  and  more  populous  quarter  of 
the  city  were  usually  constructed  of  wood,  sanctuary  fires 
were  continually  kept  burning  in  every  household  in  honour 
of  the  domestic  deities  and  it  does  not  require  the  imagina- 
tion of  a  Jules  Verne  to  conjure  up  visions  of  the  dire 
results  caused  by  an  act  of  carelessness  or  a  moment's 
thoughtlessness.  The  streets  being  narrow  and  tortuous,  the 
smallest  blaze  would  quickly  develop  into  a  veritable  con- 
flagration, the  magnitude  of  which  would  depend  solely 
upon  the  natural  barriers  which  might  stand  in  the  way 
of  the  flames.  In  addition,  intermingled  with  the  dwelling 
houses,  were  vast  warehouses  and  granaries  which  offered 
an  easy  prey  to  fire. 

Furthermore,  human  nature  in  Ancient  Rome  was  much 
the  same  as  human  nature  in  modern  New  York  and 
enterprising  miscreants  were  not  lacking,  who  realized 
that  by  starting  a  fire  and  availing  themselves  of  the  en- 
suing confusion,  they  could  enrich  themselves  comfortably 

7 


8  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

and  quickly  at  the  expense  of  their  neighbours.  They  were, 
in  fact,  the  germ  from  which  developed  the  individual  who 
is  a  terror  to  his  neighbours,  a  pest  in  the  community  and 
a  source  of  constant  activity  to  fire  departments,  by  whom 
he  is  dubbed  expressively  a  "firebug." 

Hence  it  will  be  seen  that  even  at  this  early  date  the 
menace  of  fire  in  its  primary  conditions  did  not  differ 
materially  from  the  modern  fire  risks  in  many  towns.  Under 
the  Republic  one  of  the  duties  of  the  Roman  "Triumvirs" 
was  to  protect  the  city  from  fire,  and  later  they  came 
to  be  called  "Nocturns,"  because  of  their  mounting  guard 
during  the  night.  In  this  task  they  were  assisted  by  the 
"yEdiles,"  to  whom  the  care  of  the  buildings  in  the  town 
was  entrusted.  This  constituted  the  "official"  fighting 
force,  but  there  were  in  addition  private  organizations  con- 
sisting of  slaves,  whose  services  were  given  gratuitously  ac- 
cording to  the  wishes  of  their  masters,  who  doubtless  in 
this  manner  hoped  to  rise  in  public  esteem.  This  forms 
an  interesting  analogy  to  the  methods  employed  by  many 
so-called  philanthropists  of  the  present  day  who  are  usually 
ready  to  support  any  public  work  upon  which  a  liberal 
amount  of  limelight  is  turned. 

Little  could  be  expected  from  a  department  composed 
of  such  heterogeneous  elements,  ignorant  alike  of  dis- 
cipline and  organization.  The  Emperor,  Caesar  Augus- 
tus, realizing  the  importance  of  effective  fire  protection  in 
his  capital,  introduced  the  first  regularly  constituted  "fire 
department"  known  to  history.  It  consisted  of  seven 
cohorts,  each  numbering  roughly  one  thousand  men.  Their 
duties  consisted  not  only  in  the  actual  work  of  fighting  the 
flames,  but  also  in  policing  the  streets  contiguous  to  an 
outbreak  and  in  preventing  robbery  and  looting.  The  fire 
chief  was  known  as  the  "Prsefectus  Vigilum."  He  was  as- 
sisted by  three  lieutenants,  "Subpraef ecti" ;  seven  "Tri- 
bunes," forty-nine  "Centurions,"  and  a  great  number  of 
"Principales."  This  last  title  was  given  to  every  one  in 
the  Roman  army,  who  had  any  species  of  fixed  office,  to 
all  those  in  fact  who  occupied  the  intermediate  ranks  be- 


FIRE-FIGHTING   IN   ANCIENT   ROME  9 

tween  commissioned  officers  and  common  soldiers.  Prom- 
inent amongst  the  "Principales"  were  the  "Librarii,"  who 
kept  the  accounts  and  paid  the  wages,  the  "Bucinatores"  or 
buglers,  the  ensign  bearers,  one  for  each  cohort,  and  the 
"Aquarii,"  the  "Siphonarii,"  the  "Sebaciarii,"  and  the 
"Mitularii,"  to  whose  respective  duties  attention  will  be 
paid  when  considering  the  manner  in  which  fires  were 
fought.  There  were  also  four  doctors  attached  to  each 
cohort  and  last,  but  by  no  means  least,  an  official  known 
as  the  "Questionarius,"  whose  interesting  duty  it  was  to 
apply  torture  in  cases  of  suspected  incendiarism. 

The  seven  cohorts  were  quartered  in  as  many  barracks, 
designated  "castra,"  which  were  so  located  that  each  could 
effectively  protect  two  of  the  fourteen  regions  into  which 
the  city  was  divided.  As  to  the  construction  of  these 
barracks,  there  is  fortunately  preserved  an  important  rec- 
ord in  the  shape  of  a  fragment  of  an  ancient  plan  of  Im- 
perial Rome,  showing  the  details  of  the  barrack  allocated 
to  the  first  cohort.  This  was  situated  near  St.  Grisogone 
in  Trastavere  and  the  building  had  evidently  been  specially 
designed  for  the  use  of  firemen  on  duty.  The  atrium  or 
entrance  hall  was  tiled  with  black  and  white  mosaic  ar- 
ranged to  represent  various  marine  subjects,  while  in  the 
middle  stood  a  handsome  hexagonal  fountain.  Flanking 
the  walls  on  either  side  were  benches  for  the  men,  while 
numerous  inscriptions  and  rough  drawings  evidenced  the 
fact  that  in  their  moments  of  leisure  the  Roman  fire- 
men found  amusement  in  caricaturing  their  fellows.  Oppo- 
site to  the  main  entrance  of  the  atrium  was  a  door  leading 
to  a  spacious  bathroom,  giving  the  impression  that  the 
wants  of  the  men,  even  in  those  days,  were  the  subject 
of  as  careful  consideration  as  they  are  today. 

It  must  have  been  about  this  time  that  the  intellectual 
activity  of  the  Romans  commenced  to  assert  itself  and  not 
only  the  great  "Thermes"  or  baths  were  open  the  whole 
night  long,  but  also  such  halls  of  assembly  as  the  "Pales- 
trse,"  the  "Scholae,"  the  "Bibliothecse"  and  the  "Pinocotecae" 
would  be  crowded  at  all  hours  with  throngs  of  eager  dis- 


io  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

putants.     In  fact,  nocturnal  life  in  Rome  had  come  to  be 
an  integral  part  of  the  city's  existence. 

This  in  its  turn  necessitated  some  form  of  municipal  il- 
lumination and  this  was  likewise  entrusted  to  the  fire  de- 
partment, a  special  branch  being  formed  under  the  name 
of  the  "Sebaciarii,"  after  their  first  captain,  one  Sebacia- 
rius.  Special  men  were  drawn  monthly  from  each  cohort 
for  this  service,  their  duties  including  the  supervision  of 
the  monster  torches  kept  continually  burning  outside  fire 
stations  as  a  signal  to  all  and  sundry  whither  to  repair 
in  the  event  of  wishing  to  give  an  alarm  of  fire.  Some 
few  years  ago  a  bronze  torch  was  excavated  not  far  from 
St.  Grisogone,  which  experts  presume  to  have  been  a 
street  lamp  of  this  period. 

Fortunately  Rome  was  well  supplied  with  water,  which 
was  carried  in  "Hamae"  or  light  vases  by  squads  of  firemen 
to  the  scene  of  an  outbreak,  where  it  was  placed  at  the  dis- 
posal of  those  in  charge  of  the  "Siphones"  or  hand  pumps. 
From  specimens,  which  have  been  frequently  found  in 
excavations,  these  latter  must  have  been  very  similar  to  the 
old-fashioned  syringes  used  by  gardeners,  only,  of  course, 
constructed  of  wood. 

The  "Aquarii,"  or  as  their  name  designates,  the  water 
carriers,  did  not  confine  their  attentions  to  that  duty  alone. 
They  were  also  expected  to  be  conversant  with  all  possible 
sources  of  water  supply  in  the  two  regions  of  the  town  for 
which  their  cohort  was  responsible. 

On  the  whole,  the  firemen  were  well  equipped  with  ap- 
paratus including  hammers,  saws,  mattocks,  and  other  such 
implements,  besides  leather  hose  in  suitable  lengths.  Large 
pillows,  specially  designed  to  break  the  fall  of  anyone 
jumping  from  a  height  were  in  general  use,  and  incidentally 
were  not  much  improved  upon  till  the  beginning  of  the  last 
century.  In  addition  the  Roman  ladder,  the  forerunner 
of  the  modern  escape,  had  already  been  introduced  and 
a  detailed  description  of  the  same  may  be  found  in  the 
chapter  dealing  with  appliances. 

Given  these  data  it  is  not  difficult  to  frame  in  the  mind's 


FIRE-FIGHTING   IN   ANCIENT   ROME          n 

eye  a  picture  of  a  fire  in  ancient  Rome.  There  is  sufi\- 
cient  evidence  that  the  Romans  were  distinctly  human  and 
no  doubt  an  outbreak  of  fire  provided  a  pleasant  interlude 
when  the  discourse  of  a  popular  orator  started  to  become 
tedious.  Hence  it  can  be  imagined,  even  as  today,  that 
the  "Nocturns,"  or  fire  police,  were  fully  occupied  in 
preventing  the  curious  from  hindering  the  firemen.  The 
"Praefectus  Vigilum,"  or  Fire  Chief,  would  arrive  to  take 
charge  of  operations  and  woe  betide  any  one  in  the  vicinity, 
were  there  any  suspicion  of  incendiarism.  The  services  of 
the  "Questionarius,"  or  Fire  Marshal,  would  be  hastily 
requisitioned  and,  judging  by  the  comprehensive  fashion 
in  which  the  law  was  administered  at  that  period,  it  may 
be  hazarded  that  while  no  doubt  the  guilty  eventually  re- 
ceived their  well  merited  reward,  it  is  not  unlikely  that 
meantime  a  proportion  of  the  innocent  had  also  tasted 
of  that  official's  ingenious  skill.  This  assuredly  must  have 
had  a  discouraging  effect  upon  the  enthusiasm  of  the 
genus  "firebug,"  for  inasmuch  as  example  is  generally 
a  deterrent,  it  mattered  little  whether  the  punishment 
reached  the  real  offender,  so  long  as  the  "modus  operandi" 
of  the  punishment  and  the  reason  thereof  were  known  and 
appreciated. 

But  to  return  to  a  more  serious  vein  of  thought,  it  is 
a  fact  that  modern  methods  of  procedure  against  incen- 
diaries lack  the  finality  and  thoroughness  of  those  early 
days.  In  a  later  portion  of  this  volume  the  subject  is 
treated  at  length  and  hence  it  is  unnecessary  further  to 
pursue  the  question.  Suffice  it  to  say,  that,  broadly  speak- 
ing, the  Fire  Department  of  Ancient  Rome  was  as  well 
organized  and  equipped  for  its  duties  as  many  a  municipal 
force  as  late  as  the  eighteenth  century  and  it  might  not 
be  exaggeration  to  hazard,  even  composed  of  as  competent 
fire-fighters  as  some  corps  of  today. 


CHAPTER  III 

THE  EVOLUTION  OF  FIRE-FIGHTING 

IT  may  be  safely  asserted  that  the  fire  department  of 
ancient  Rome  was  better  organized  and  better  equipped  than 
the  rough  and  ready  volunteer  services  maintained  by  the 
great  European  cities  during  the  middle  ages.  There  had, 
in  fact,  been  a  period  of  retrogression,  which  was  coincident 
with  the  dismemberment  of  the  Roman  Empire,  when  all 
art  and  science  languished  in  the  chaos  that  ensued.  Need- 
less to  say,  the  problems  affecting  fire  control  were  relegated 
to  the  background,  and,  indeed,  the  art  of  destroying  towns 
received  more  consideration  than  that  of  their  preservation. 
Thus  it  is  that  no  records  can  be  found  of  mechanical  appli- 
ances being  used  at  the  conflagrations  which  demolished 
Constantinople  and  Vienna.  Indeed,  this  retrograde  move- 
ment had  so  far  affected  the  whole  subject  that  even  in  the 
Renaissance,  when  Europe  teemed  with  fresh  ideas  and  new 
thought,  no  other  method  of  fighting  fires  existed  than  the 
primitive  bucket  of  the  Pre-Roman  period.  By  1590,  how- 
ever, there  were  signs  of  an  awakening  interest  and  in  an 
account  of  a  fire  in  England  the  use  of  a  monstrous  syringe 
is  related  as  the  introduction  of  a  novelty,  although  in 
reality  it  must  have  been  practically  a  counterpart  of  the 
"siphonarius,"  mention  of  which  was  made  in  the  last 
chapter.  In  1615,  a  hand  engine  was  made  in  Germany, 
but  it  was  merely  a  pump  without  hose,  the  principle  em- 
bodied being  a  rotary  paddle  wheel,  which  by  being  turned 
rapidly  forced  the  water  out  through  an  orifice.  This 
again  was  not  new,  the  idea  having  probably  been  derived 
from  Greek  sources.  Even  in  1666,  the  good  citizens  of 

12 


THE   EVOLUTION   OF   FIRE-FIGHTING        13 

London  were  without  any  mechanical  appliances  and  were 
practically  helpless  to  stem  that  terrific  conflagration,  which 
devastated  their  city  and  consumed  13,200  houses  covering 
an  area  of  436  acres,  the  ancient  cathedral  of  St.  Paul 
and  thirty-six  other  churches,  the  Royal  Exchange,  the 
Custom  House,  hospitals  and  four  prisons,  in  which,  in- 
cidentally, several  persons  lost  their  lives.  The  value  of 
the  property  destroyed  amounted  to  nearly  sixty  million 
dollars,  and  it  undoubtedly  served  to  impress  upon  the 
public  mind  the  necessity  of  some  proper  system  of  fire  pre- 
vention. Immediately  afterwards  the  city  was  divided  into 
four  districts,  each  under  the  control  of  a  special  officer 
possessed  of  authority  to  take  charge  in  the  event  of  a 
fire. 

It  must  be  understood  that  at  this  time  social  and  eco- 
nomic conditions  made  life  comparatively  simple.  Gas  and 
matches  were  unknown  thus  eliminating  those  two  fruitful 
sources  of  carelessness.  Buildings  were  as  a  rule  one-story 
in  height  and  the  floors,  even  in  the  dwellings  of  the  wealthy, 
were  flagged  with  stone.  Hence  the  change  was  slow  in 
coming  and  was  concomitant  with  the  demand  for  increased 
security  of  persons  and  property.  Business  activity  began 
to  show  itself  in  all  parts  of  Western  Europe  in  the  fifteenth 
century,  and  towns  destined  to  be  the  industrial  centres  of 
the  modern  world  had  their  genesis.  With  their  growth 
began  afresh  a  full  appreciation  of  fire  risks  and  the  neces- 
sity of  fire  control.  Yet  it  was  not  until  the  eighteenth  cen- 
tury that  one  Richard  Newsham  designed  a  hand  engine  of 
practical  utility.  Water  was  supplied  to  it  by  hand  and  was 
then  pumped  out  through  a  hose,  thus  forming  the  prede- 
cessor of  the  manual,  draughting  its  own  water  and  thereby 
supplying  pumps. 

America  had  to  learn  her  lesson  in  her  own  way. 
From  the  Atlantic  to  the  Pacific  her  colonists  found  the 
country  covered  with  dense  forests,  which  were  naturally 
utilized  for  building  purposes,  and,  as  a  result,  as  early 
as  1648  the  first  fire  ordinance  was  adopted  in  New  York, 
forbidding  the  use  of  wooden  chimneys  and  providing  for 


i4  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

the  purchase  of  one  hundred  leather  buckets,  hooks  and 
ladders.  A  body  of  volunteers  was  organized  to  patrol 
the  streets  at  night  and  watch  for  outbreaks,  who  from 
their  persistent,  painstaking  and  sometimes  rather  indis- 
creet efforts  were  christened  suggestively,  "The  Prowlers." 
Their  work  was,  however,  appreciated,  and  in  1678  the  town 
of  Boston  organized  the  first  regular  fire  company  under 
municipal  control  and  imported  from  England  a  species  of 
hand  pump.  Only  in  1808  did  a  Philadelphia  firm  put 
on  the  market  riveted  leather  hose,  and  soon  afterwards 
an  ingenious  hose  carriage  of  American  invention  was 
adopted  and  remains  in  use  in  a  modified  form  to  the 
present  day.  England  was  the  first  country  to  manu- 
facture rubber  hose,  about  1820,  and  its  employment  with 
certain  improvements  has  become  general.  The  application 
of  steam  as  a  means  of  obtaining  power  was  responsible 
for  a  revolution  in  fire  apparatus  as  it  was  in  all  other 
lines  of  mechanical  effort.  It  has  contributed  in  no  small 
degree  to  the  construction  of  effective  portable  machinery 
with  which  to  fight  fires,  and  the  benefits  derived  from  its 
use  have  been  almost  incalculable. 

Obviously,  it  is  the  endeavour  of  all  firemen  to  check  a 
fire  in  its  early  stage,  since  generally  speaking,  its  com- 
mencement is  small  and  progress  comparatively  slow.  It 
is  no  exaggeration  to  say  that  some  of  the  great  conflagra- 
tions which  for  hours  and  even  days  have  baffled  the  com- 
bined efforts  of  huge  fire  departments  with  scores  of 
determined  firemen  equipped  with  much  powerful  appara- 
tus, could  have  been  extinguished  in  a  few  seconds  by  the 
cool-headed  and  well-directed  work  of  one  man  armed  with 
but  a  single  pail  of  water,  had  he  arrived  in  time.  In  other 
words,  if  ready  means  of  suppressing  a  fire  in  its  infancy 
were  at  hand  many  serious  outbreaks  might  be  averted,  and 
hence  it  is  that  so  much  depends  upon  effective  apparatus 
and  the  speed  with  which  it  is  conveyed  to  the  scene  of 
action. 

For  imagine  what  happened  in  the  old  days  before  the 
adoption  of  the  steam  fire  engine.  First,  consider  the 


THE  "MODERN  BISKS"  CART  OF  THE 
TECHNICAL  COMPANY  OF  LUCERNE. 


THE   EVOLUTION   OF   FIRE-FIGHTING        15 

bucket  period.  A  person  discovering  a  fire  would  run  to 
his  nearest  neighbour  for  help,  and  then  the  alarm  would 
be  given  from  one  house  to  another  and  immediately  all 
would  be  confusion.  Volunteers  there  would  be  in  plenty, 
armed  with  buckets  or  any  other  domestic  utensil  which 
would  contain  water.  Forming  a  line  they  would  pass  the 
buckets  from  hand  to  hand,  sending  them  back  by  their  \ 
women  folk  to  be  refilled.  With  such  loss  of  time  and 
feeble  resistance  it  is  small  wonder  if  usually  the  flames 
continued  their  course  practically  unchecked,  and  a  build- 
ing saved  from  complete  ruin  was  considered  as  a  remark- 
able achievement. 

Next  came  the  period  of  the  hand  engine.  Bells  upon 
churches  and  other  public  buildings  were  now  the  means  of 
spreading  the  dire  tidings,  and  upon  hearing  their  summons 
the  voluntary  firemen  would  hurry  to  their  quarters  and 
drag  their  engine  in  the  direction  of  the  first  alarm.  Then 
arose  the  question,  where  was  the  nearest  water  supply,  and 
no  doubt  time  was  wasted  through  unsolicited  advice.  If, 
as  was  often  the  case,  the  supply  proved  to  be  at  too  great 
a  distance  from  the  outbreak  for  one  engine  to  furnish  an 
efficient  stream,  a  second  was  stationed  between  the  fire 
and  the  water.  The  ensuing  contest  between  both  parties 
of  excited  men  as  to  which  should  occupy  the  place  of  hon- 
our near  the  fire,  and  the  efforts  of  the  vanquished  to  pump 
up  more  water  than  the  engine  in  front  could  use,  no  doubt, 
added  to  the  gayety  of  the  community,  and  the  mythological 
God  of  Fire  must  have  smiled  and  perhaps  murmured, 
"What  fools  these  mortals  be."  But  this  opera  bouffe 
method  of  fire-fighting  really  served  a  useful  purpose, 
inasmuch  as  the  increasing  seriousness  of  the  fire  risk  did 
not  appeal  in  the  same  degree  to  the  sense  of  humour  of 
those  who  lost  their  property,  with  the  result  that  the  advent 
of  a  new  factor  in  fire  control  was  welcomed  by  the  influen- 
tial of  the  population.  George  Braithwaite,  an  English- 
man, first  conceived  a  steam  fire  engine,  which  was  com- 
pleted in  the  year  1829  and  was  a  portent  of  the  great 
change  to  come.  Skeptics  there  were  who  scoffed  at  its 


16  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

superiority  and  who  jeeringly  referred  to  it  as  the  "steam 
squirt"  or  the  "kitchen  stove."  But  it  had  come  to  stay, 
and  in  1840,  a  New  Yorker,  by  name  Paul  Hodges,  con- 
structed a  model  of  curious  design,  which,  however,  proved 
impracticable. 

The  year  1845  was  marked  by  the  first  of  the  great 
fires,  which  heralded  the  era  of  new  building  construction 
in  the  United  States  and  which,  therefore,  deserves  more 
than  passing  mention.  Pittsburgh,  Pa.,  was  the  scene  of 
the  disaster,  which  originated  from  the  simplest  act  of 
carelessness.  On  washing  day,  in  the  early  part  of  April, 
a  house-wife  made  a  small  fire,  upon  which  to  boil  water, 
in  the  back  yard  of  her  home.  A  high  wind  was  blowing 
and  sparks  from  her  miniature  bonfire  were  carried  to 
a  neighboring  building,  which  quickly  ignited.  With  in- 
credible rapidity  the  flames  spread  from  house  to  house, 
and,  despite  the  desperate  efforts  of  volunteer  and  amateur 
firemen,  the  destruction  ceased  only  when  no  material  was 
left  for  the  fire  to  feed  upon  in  a  territory  fifty-six  acres 
in  extent.  The  financial  loss  was  five  million  dollars,  an 
enormous  one  for  those  days,  and  two  thousand  families 
wandered  homeless  over  the  charred  remains  of  what  had 
been  their  dwellings.  This  is  one  of  those  instances  when 
prompt  and  timely  action  would  have  probably  saved  the 
situation,  but  the  antiquated  methods  employed,  coupled 
with  the  delay  inseparable  from  the  summoning  of  volun- 
teers, was  just  sufficient  to  transform  what  might  have 
been  a  back-yard  blaze  into  a  conflagration  of  the  first 
magnitude.  And  so  it  always  will  be  in  fire  control;  time 
is  an  ally  of  the  utmost  value,  which  in  its  turn  demands 
the  maximum  of  celerity  on  the  part  of  all  concerned. 
Prominence  is  given  to  this  episode  since  some  such  re- 
minder was  needed  in  America,  as  elsewhere,  to  stir  up  its 
citizens  to  a  realization  of  what  fire  could  accomplish, 
even  from  the  smallest  and  most  trifling  beginnings. 

Untold  romance  lies  in  the  history  of  the  great  forest 
fires  of  America,  which  even  today  rage  to  a  large  ex- 
tent uncontrolled,  but  which  educated  the  early  settlers  to  a 


THE    EVOLUTION    OF    FIRE-FIGHTING        17 

vivid  realization  of  their  perils.  Thus,  in  the  prosperous 
colony  of  New  Brunswick  there  is  chronicled  a  conflagra- 
tion, which  in  its  destructive  horror  has  left  an  indelible 
mark  upon  the  population  as  well  as  upon  the  land  itself. 

Along  the  banks  of  the  river  Miramichi  there  were  scat- 
tered in  1825  prosperous  settlements  of  fishermen  and 
farmers,  while  through  the  forest  which  extended  for  hun- 
dreds of  miles  to  the  north  and  south  roamed  hunters 
and  trappers  of  nomadic  habits  in  search  of  a  livelihood. 
To  them,  nature  appeared  so  bountiful,  that  no  thought 
of  any  enemy  common  alike  to  both  entered  their  con- 
tented minds.  The  summer  had  been  a  dry  one  and  the 
autumn  had  brought  but  little  rain,  till  the  pine  needles 
and  leaves  crackled  under  the  weight  of  a  passing  step. 
And  a  careless  lumberman  was  to  transform  this  haven  of 
quiet  into  a  holocaust  of  ruin !  Having  finished  his  evening 
pipe,  he  knocked  it  out  against  a  tree  stump  and  turned  in, 
little  recking  of  the  consequences.  He  awoke  to  find 
the  forest  ablaze  about  him,  and  although  fearfully  burned 
managed  to  make  his  way  to  the  nearest  camp,  where  there 
was  no  need  to  tell  his  story.  For  east  and  west,  north 
and  south  the  glow  of  an  unnatural  day  was  upon  them. 
From  the  waters  of  the  Miramichi  to  the  shores  of  Bay 
Chaleur,  there  was  one  roaring  hurricane  of  flame  and  no 
human  means  wherewith  to  stay  it.  Dawn  followed  dawn 
bringing  no  relief,  till  the  heart  of  a  great  province  was 
transformed  from  a  richly  wooded  country  into  a  lonely 
and  desolate  waste.  So  much  had  been  accomplished  by 
human  carelessness,  though  it  is  ever  thus  that  the  world 
has  learned  its  lessons.  No  less  than  two  hundred  persons 
either  perished  in  the  flames  or  were  drowned  in  the  river, 
vainly  trying  to  find  safety  in  its  cooling  waters.  Over 
a  thousand  horses  and  cattle  were  swept  to  their  doom,  and 
six  thousand  square  miles  of  forest  disappeared  as  com- 
pletely from  the  face  of  the  earth  as  though  they  had  never 
been.  In  some  places  the  destruction  of  vegetation  was 
so  thorough  that  even  to  this  day  nothing  can  grow  there 
but  stunted  shrubbery  and  coarse  grass,  a  constant  re- 


1 8  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

minder  of  this  tragedy.  With  such  examples  of  the  terrific 
power  of  fire,  was  it  surprising  that  the  new  world  hailed 
the  invention  of  the  steam  engine  with  enthusiasm  as  a 
possible  panacea  for  its  sufferings? 

Even  to  the  amateur  mechanic  the  principles  governing 
the  construction  and  working  of  the  steam  fire  engine  are 
simple  and  easy  of  understanding.  In  the  earliest  examples 
an  upright  boiler  with  a  spacious  fire  box  at  its  base  was 
set  between  the  rear  wheels  of  an  ordinary  carriage  body, 
and  surmounted  by  a  short  smoke-stack.  Bolted  to  the 
front  of  the  boiler  were  two  steam  cylinders,  above  them 
being  placed  the  pump  itself,  so  that  the  piston  rod  of  the 
engine  served  as  the  rod  of  the  pump.  Steam  drove  the 
pistons  up  and  down  in  the  engine,  drawing  water  through 
a  large  suction  hose  on  one  side  and  forcing  it  out  on  the 
other  through  a  smaller  hose.  From  the  pumps  the  water 
was  forced  to  an  air-chamber  forming  a  cushion  and  serv- 
ing to  equalize  the  pressure,  thus  giving  an  unvarying  dis- 
charge. The  principle  of  these  pumps  was,  therefore,  very 
much  akin  to  that  of  the  hand  engine,  but  with  enormously 
increased  power.  As  this  was  long  prior  to  the  introduction 
of  the  water  tube  boiler,  steam  had  to  be  generated  in  the 
old  way,  by  which  the  heat  given  off  by  combustion  is  con- 
veyed by  tubes  through  the  boiler.  The  water  supply  of  the 
boiler  was  obtained  from  a  small  pipe  connected  to  or 
near  the  suction  chamber  and  pumps.  On  the  average  the 
diameter  of  the  cylinders  in  the  various  sizes  of  engines 
ranged  from  six  and  one-half  to  ten  inches,  while  the  stroke 
as  a  rule  measured  eight  inches.  These  rough  particulars 
will  give  the  reader  some  idea  of  the  chrysalis  from  which 
the  modern  fire  engine  has  emerged. 

Since  fires  cannot  be  fought  without  water,  some  ac- 
count of  the  problem  connected  with  its  supply  deserves 
attention.  Here  again  may  be  observed  the  retrograde 
movement,  since  in  Roman  times  it  was  not  uncommon  to 
find  aqueducts  forty  miles  in  length,  which,  from  their 
situation,  were  enabled  to  deliver  to  the  city,  In  accordance 
with  the  laws  of  gravity,  a  sufficient  quantity  of  water 


CAXTIN1ERE      OF     A      FBENCH      BUBAL     FIBE      BBIGADE. 


i        c    «.     tfc    k«-«    •*•**;!  ;      .*.      *"** 


THE    EVOLUTION    OF    FIRE-FIGHTING         19 

at  a  moderate  pressure.  Naturally  this  was  of  great 
advantage  in  fire-fighting  and  from  historical  records  it 
is  clear  that  the  most  was  made  of  it.  But  in  Europe  of 
the  middle  ages,  these  lessons  had  been  forgotten  and  the 
practice  had  fallen  into  desuetude.  Rivers,  wells  and  ponds 
were  considered  adequate  for  the  needs  of  the  population 
and  it  is  curious  to  meditate  that  the  intellectual  wealth 
of  that  time  expended  itself  solely  upon  art  and  the  most 
profound  metaphysics  to  the  exclusion  of  more  mundane, 
though  probably  more  useful,  considerations  regarding  pub- 
lic health  and  safety.  Yet,  even  in  the  middle  of  the  last 
century,  it  was  by  no  means  uncommon  to  find  large  towns 
dependent  upon  a  water  supply  operated  by  private  com- 
panies and  conveyed  by  means  of  open  mains  through  the 
streets.  In  1815  Philadelphia  introduced  a  complete  system 
of  underground  pipes  constantly  supplied  with  water  by 
a  central  pumping  station.  This  plan  proved  a  success  and 
has  since  been  gradually  adopted  even  by  many  of  the  small- 
est towns  in  America.  This  system,  however,  did  not  at  its 
initiation  take  into  consideration  the  fire  department,  and 
the  city  of  New  York  probably  had  the  first  water  service 
to  which  hydrants  were  connected  for  that  particular 
purpose.  By  degrees  has  been  evolved  from  this  mode 
of  supply,  that  most  valuable  adjunct  of  modern  fire-fight- 
ing, the  "high  pressure"  system,  which  even  now  has  not 
been  extended  to  its  limit  of  usefulness  and  which  is  lacking 
in  cities  where  it  should  most  certainly  be  installed.  A 
detailed  description  of  its  advantages  is  given  in  a  separate 
chapter. 

Naturally,  an  outbreak  of  fire  being  invariably  attended 
with  some  danger  to  human  life,  those  far-sighted  Romans 
cast  about  for  the  most  simple  yet  effective  means  of  coping 
with  the  situation.  Two  pieces  of  their  apparatus  were 
specially  designed  for  this  purpose  and  have  survived  in 
a  modified  form  until  the  present  day.  Firstly,  mention 
must  be  made  of  the  Roman  ladder.  The  great  advantage 
of  this  apparatus  lies  in  its  simplicity.  In  its  constructive 
details  it  has  changed  practically  not  a  whit  since  the  days 


20  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

of  Nero,  and  it  is  as  useful  in  wide  thoroughfares  as  in 
narrow  courts,  while  its  portability  is  such  that  one  man 
can  carry  the  entire  equipment.  It  consists  of  a  series  of 
short  ladders  from  six  to  nine  feet  in  length,  the  lower 
part  of  each  being  slightly  broader  than  the  top.  By  means 
of  a  slot  the  sections  can  be  fitted  together,  all  being  inter- 
changeable except  that  designed  for  the  bottom,  which  has 
its  sides  somewhat  more  outspread  in  order  to  provide 
a  firmer  hold  upon  the  ground.  The  method  of  erection 
is  simple  and  ingenious.  The  lowest  section  is  first  placed 
against  the  wall  to  be  scaled,  at  a  considerable  angle.  The 
fireman  then  ascends  it  with  a  "section"  on  his  shoulder 
and  armed  with  a  rope,  a  hook  belted  to  his  waist  and 
a  pulley.  When  he  reaches  a  certain  rung,  which  in  modern 
practice  is  painted  scarlet,  he  puts  his  leg  through  the  ladder, 
his  foot  against  the  wall,  and  hooking  himself  on,  in  order 
to  leave  his  hands  free,  pushes  the  ladder  away  from  the 
wall  and  fits  the  "section"  he  has  carried  on  the  top  of  the 
"section"  upon  which  he  is  standing.  He  then  hauls  up 
another  "section"  and  repeats  the  same  manoeuvre.  At  the 
Colosseum  in  Rome,  for  exhibition  purposes,  these  ladders 
have  been  joined  up  together  till  they  reached  a  total  length 
of  one  hundred  and  sixty- four  feet.  This  apparatus,  it  may 
be  remarked,  is  in  regular  use  in  many  of  the  Italian 
fire  departments  today. 

The  second  noteworthy  appliance  of  Roman  times,  which 
has  endured  through  all  these  centuries,  and  which  in  the 
writer's  humble  opinion,  modern  invention  has  not  im- 
proved, is  the  jumping  pillow.  This  was  nothing  more 
nor  less  than  a  large  mattress  some  eight  feet  square, 
stuffed  with  hair  or  feathers,  and  designed  to  break  the 
fall  of  any  one  jumping  from  a  height.  Nowadays  the 
practice  is  to  use  a  net  made  of  heavy  rope  attached  to 
springs  to  afford  additional  resiliency.  The  chances  of 
any  one  jumping  from  a  height  of  more  than  three  stories 
must  always  be  intensely  hazardous,  but  all  things  con- 
sidered, there  appears  to  be  a  balance  in  favor  of  landing 
on  the  pillow.  During  that  most  distressing  fire  at  the 


THE    EVOLUTION    OF   FIRE-FIGHTING        21 

Asch  Building  in  New  York,  when  a  number  of  lives  were 
lost,  several  young  women  attempted  to  jump  to  safety, 
were  caught  in  the  net  and  found — death.  The  impetus 
their  bodies  gathered  while  falling  was  so  terrific  that 
the  shock  of  the  impact  killed  them  in  every  case.  Hence 
it  will  be  seen  that  the  fire-fighting  world  is  still  awaiting 
the  genius  of  the  inventor,  who  will  be  able  to  devise 
some  other  means  of  catching  unfortunates  who  are  com- 
pelled by  dire  necessity  to  jump  to  their  doom. 

This  brief  resume  will  have  been  sufficient  to  demon- 
strate the  fact  that  the  inclusion  of  fire-fighting  amongst 
the  scientific  problems  of  the  day  and  as  one  worthy  of 
serious  consideration  dates  from  modern  times,  and  hence 
the  many  improvements  which  have  been  introduced  into 
its  practice  are  all  of  such  recent  origin,  that  even  now  they 
are  only  just  emerging  from  an  embryonic  stage.  It  is 
probable  that  the  next  century  will  witness  advances  along 
all  lines,  of  such  immense  consequence  that  present  appara- 
tus will  be  totally  outclassed  and  will  be  relegated  to  the 
glass  cases  and  dusty  environment  of  museums,  where  the 
curious  of  future  generations  will  gaze  with  interest,  tinged 
possibly  with  amusement,  at  the  appliances  used  to  fight 
the  flames  by  their  forefathers.  So  far  the  use  of  chem- 
istry as  an  ally  of  water  in  subduing  fires  is  only  in  its 
infancy  and  though  prophecy  is  admittedly  unsatisfactory 
and  more  often  than  not  misleading,  it  may  be  hazarded 
that  the  cumbersome  steam  fire  pump  will  in  due  course 
disappear  from  the  sphere  of  active  operations  and  that  the 
outbreaks  of  the  future  will  be  dealt  with  swiftly  and  easily 
by  a  combination  of  high  pressure  streams  coupled  with 
chemical  forces  as  yet  inoperative.  It  has  taken  many 
centuries  to  evolve  the  fire  departments  of  the  present,  but 
as  so  often  happens,  now  that  a  scientific  advance  has 
at  last  been  made,  that  advance  will  continue  with  increas- 
ing rapidity  until  "fire,"  as  was  always  intended,  shall  be 
the  "servant"  and  not  the  "scourge"  of  man. 


CHAPTER  IV 
"PAST  AND  PRESENT"  REMINISCENCES  OF  A  FIRE-FIGHTER 

A  SAGE  once  penned  the  dictum  that  "Fire  makes  a 
good  servant  but  a  bad  master,"  and  few  practical  firemen 
will  be  found  to  argue  the  accuracy  of  the  statement. 
For  the  fire-fighter,  life  consists  of  one  protracted  struggle 
against  this  most  crafty  of  elements,  which  oftentimes  is 
most  dangerous  when  apparently  subdued  and  which,  in  its 
methods  of  attack,  would  appear  to  be  guided  by  some 
Machiavellian  master  mind  of  strategy.  Hence  it  goes 
without  saying  that  successfully  to  cope  with  such  an 
adversary  demands  the  maximum  of  skill  and  determina- 
tion, which  are  fundamental  characteristics  of  the  genus 
fireman.  The  sailor  is  an  idol  of  the  public  largely  because 
he  is  ever  pictured  as  pitting  his  seamanship  and  science 
against  the  two  stubborn  forces  of  wind  and  waves.  In 
song  and  story  he  is  immortalized  as  the  acme  of  all  that 
is  dashing  and  fearless,  and  it  is  small  wonder  that  the 
younger  generation,  inspired  by  such  narratives,  yearns  to 
emulate  such  heroes.  Yet,  for  some  strange  reason,  the 
fireman  has  never  occupied  so  large  a  place  in  popular  ro- 
mance; his  deeds  have  not  been  chronicled  with  the  same 
degree  of  graphic  narration,  the  cheap  notoriety  of  the 
music  hall  ballad  has  perhaps  happily  been  denied  him,  and 
it  has  remained  for  the  daily  press  to  utilize  him  as  a 
convenient  "feature,"  in  the  absence  of  other  material. 
This  must  not  be  taken  as  implying  any  want  of  generosity 
on  the  part  of  those  concerned;  but  naturally  a  minor 
fire,  though  involving  considerable  risk  to  those  operating 
against  it,  cannot  receive  the  same  publicity  as  that  accorded 

22 


REMINISCENCES   OF  A   FIRE-FIGHTER        23 

to  some  event  of  general  interest.  Also,  it  must  be  re- 
membered that  it  is  a  common  trait  of  human  nature  to 
accept  without  particular  comment  the  services  of  any  or- 
ganization to  which  it  has  become  accustomed.  The  average 
person  is  ignorant  of  the  sea,  except  through  the  medium 
of  what  is  written,  and  hence,  being  unfamiliar  otherwise 
with  the  subject,  instinctively  envelops  the  calling  of  the 
sailor  with  a  glamour  of  romanticism  and  mystery. 

Nevertheless,  to  those  who  care  to  seek  it,  there  is  a 
potent  fascination  in  the  career  of  a  fireman;  a  life  full 
of  ever- vary  ing  incident  and  a  calling  which  may  well 
make  appeal  to  the  imagination  of  the  young  man  in 
search  of  adventure. 

Picture  a  warm,  well-lighted  recreation  room.  A  dozen 
firemen  are  gathered  about  tables  passing  away  the  time 
with  dominoes  and  pool,  while  one  of  their  number  is  amus- 
ing himself  at  the  piano  by  strumming  over  the  latest  popu- 
lar airs.  Suddenly  the  alarm  gong  sounds.  It  is  a  district 
call,  and  almost  instantaneously  the  men  are  in  their  jerseys 
and  boots.  The  pianist  has  disappeared  down  the  sliding 
pole  with  a  celerity  which  would  put  to  shame  the  demon  in 
a  fairy  play.  While  the  others  are  following,  the  horses 
have  already  clattered  from  their  stalls  and  taken  their 
allotted  places  under  their  harness.  With  a  snap  and  a 
click  their  collars  are  locked,  the  drivers  leap  to  their  seats 
and  as  the  station  doors  swing  automatically  open,  the 
firemen  clamber  onto  the  apparatus,  which  is  already  un- 
der way.  "Not  so  bad,"  mutters  the  officer  in  charge, 
"eighteen  seconds  from  the  alarm."  Outside  the  night 
is  chill  and  misty,  intensified  by  a  steady  drizzle.  The 
streets  are  greasy  and  the  engine  rocks  perilously  from  side 
to  side  as,  with  bell  clanging  and  siren  sounding,  it  dashes 
at  full  speed  along  thoroughfares  crowded  with  home- 
going  pleasure-seekers.  Arrived  at  the  scene  of  the  outbreak 
it  is  found  that  the  cause  of  the  trouble  is  a  large  ware- 
house on  the  waterfront,  full  of  combustible  materials  al- 
ready well  ablaze.  The  driver,  versed  in  the  geography 
of  the  district,  pulls  up  at  the  nearest  hydrant.  A  loud 


24  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

clattering  heralds  the  approach  of  the  hose  wagon.  A  burly 
fireman  deftly  catches  the  end  of  a  hose  section  thrown  to 
him  and  couples  up  to  the  standpipe.  Then  the  crew,  with 
an  automatic  precision  born  of  long  experience,  lay  hold 
of  their  weapons,  the  hose  pipes,  and  advance  to  the  attack. 
Above  the  roar  of  the  flames  raging  up  the  elevator  shaft  of 
the  building  resounds  the  shrill  crescendo  of  a  ship's  whis- 
tle. A  fire  boat  has  responded  to  the  call  and  is  wending 
its  way  rapidly  along  the  water's  edge.  Within  a  period, 
measurable  only  by  seconds,  it  also  has  joined  in  the  fray 
and  is  directing  several  streams  upon  the  rear  of  the  main 
fire,  thus  carrying  out  the  most  effective  manoeuvre  in  mod- 
ern warfare,  that  of  outflanking  the  enemy.  Meantime 
other  engines  and  other  apparatus  have  arrived.  Curious 
crowds  have  collected  and  strong  drafts  of  police  are  kept 
busy  in  preventing  the  hampering  of  the  brigade's  efforts. 
A  large  motor  draws  up.  Its  occupant  is  the  fire  chief, 
distinguishable  from  all  others  by  a  white  helmet.  There  is 
no  confusion,  little  excitement,  the  General  has  arrived  to 
take  the  supreme  command.  An  officer  briefly  outlines 
the  situation;  the  fire  has  gained  such  and  such  a  hold, 
so  many  pieces  of  apparatus  are  being  employed  with  a 
certain  end  in  view,  the  only  question  is  whether  the 
General  is  satisfied  that  the  forces  are  being  used  to  the 
best  possible  advantage.  They  decide  that  a  personal  in- 
spection is  necessary  and  without  delay  the  Chief  enters 
the  building.  Nearby  stands  a  hospital  ambulance,  with  its 
doctor  and  orderlies  ready  for  any  emergency,  for  even 
as  on  a  battlefield  casualties  are  to  be  expected.  By  order 
of  the  Chief  a  heavier  attack  is  developed  upon  a  particular 
portion  of  the  structure  and  an  extension  ladder  shoots 
up  through  the  murk  with  men  clinging  cat-like  to  its  rungs 
even  as  it  lengthens.  An  order  rings  out  "Start  water,"  and 
a  powerful  jet  is  forced  into  the  heart  of  the  seething 
inferno. 

The  crucial  point  in  the  attack  upon  the  fire  has  now 
arrived.  It  is  as  though  each  contestant  were  summoning 
up  his  reserves  with  a  view  to  one  overwhelming  effort  at 


"FIBST  AID*'   HYDRANT  AND 

HOOK   AND  LADDER   CART   OF  LUCERNE. 


REMINISCENCES    OF   A    FIRE-FIGHTER        25 

mastery.  Flames  have  crept  into  the  cellars,  rendering  the 
task  of  the  firemen  in  that  quarter  almost  impossible.  Sev- 
eral are  overcome  by  heat  and  smoke  and  are  quickly  re- 
moved to  the  ambulance,  their  places  being  speedily  taken 
by  reliefs.  But  still  the  fire  gains.  Moreover,  a  new  ally 
assists  the  flames  in  the  shape  of  a  snapped,  heavily-charged 
electric  light  cable.  Like  some  huge  serpent  it  twists  and 
writhes  hither  and  thither,  menacing  with  instant  death 
those,  who  again  and  again  essay  to  check  its  career.  It 
hisses  venomously,  its  blue  glare  blinds  them  in  the  per- 
vading gloom  until  with  one  supreme  effort  it  is  seized 
and  denuded  of  its  fangs,  being  severed  from  the  main. 
One  successful  skirmish  does  not,  however,  constitute  a 
victory,  and  a  reinforcement  of  the  enemy  appears  to  check 
too  confident  an  advance.  The  roof  is  yet  intact  and  upon 
the  third  floor  the  firemen  are  met  by  great  volumes  of 
dense  smoke,  which  threaten  "back  draught."  With  axes 
and  hatchets,  doors  and  shutters  are  demolished,  anything 
to  create  a  draught.  A  sheet  of  flame  and  a  whirling 
eddy  of  sparks  momentarily  envelop  the  workers  on  the 
extension  ladder  and  few  among  the  watchers  can  credit 
their  safety  as  they  emerge  from  this  fiery  whirlpool, 
clothes  burnt,  hair  singed,  hands  blistered,  but  still  fight- 
ing on  with  grim  determination.  That  marked  the  last 
desperate  stand  of  the  enemy.  The  Niagara  of  water  is 
beginning  to  tell  and  a  sullen  pall  of  smoke  darkens  the 
angry  brilliance  of  the  blaze.  Some  of  the  companies  are 
recalled  to  their  stations  to  be  in  readiness  for  other  out- 
breaks, while  a  sufficient  number  of  men  remain  until  the 
last  vestiges  of  their  foe  have  disappeared.  Then  they, 
too,  retire,  perchance  to  a  well-earned  rest. 

This  is  by  no  means  an  over-coloured  picture  of  an  every- 
day fire  in  the  warehouse  district  of  any  city ;  moreover  it 
is  devoid  of  the  heartrending  scenes  and'  nerve  racking 
uncertainty  inseparable  from  those  occasions  when  human 
lives  are  involved.  Thus,  who  shall  say  that  the  life  of  the 
fireman  lacks  that  romance,  which  is  supposed  to  be  in- 
alienable from  them  "that  go  down  to  the  sea  in  ships,  that 


26  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

do  business  in  great  waters."  As  a  matter  of  fact  the  career 
of  those  who  fight  the  flames  teems  with  anecdotes  of  splen- 
did courage,  self-denying  heroism  and  hair-breadth  escapes, 
which  furnish  material  and  to  spare  for  the  great  masters 
of  the  pen.  For  instance,  this  from  real  life : 

During  the  progress  of  a  serious  fire  in  the  city  of  Boston, 
the  Assistant  Chief  went  to  the  top  of  the  building  involved 
for  the  purpose  of  opening  the  hydrants  connected  with 
its  water  protection.  Whilst  thus  engaged  he  was  cut  off 
from  all  means  of  escape  save  one,  which  consisted  of  a 
heavy  telegraph  cable  connected  to  a  separate  building 
across  the  street.  In  order  to  make  his  predicament  known, 
he  threw  his  fire  helmet  to  the  ground,  many  feet  below. 
Extension  ladders  were  erected  with  all  rapidity,  but  were 
prevented  from  reaching  him  by  a  tangle  of  overhead  wires. 
By  this  time  his  clothing  was  on  fire  and  the  position  was 
rapidly  becoming  untenable.  All  that  separated  possible 
life  from  a  horrible  death  was  that  cable.  Crawling  to 
the  edge  of  the  building  he  swung  himself  onto  the  wire, 
which  swayed  and  quivered  with  his  weight.  With  the 
utmost  presence  of  mind,  hand  over  hand  and  leg  over  leg, 
he  worked  his  way  toward  the  centre  of  the  cable,  where 
he  remained  suspended  ninety  feet  above  the  ground.  Had 
the  line  run  directly  across  the  street,  the  officer,  with  the 
distance  he  had  actually  covered,  would  have  reached 
safety. 

But  unfortunately  the  line  was  at  an  upward  angle  and 
his  efforts  to  reach  the  point  which  he  had  gained  had 
sapped  his  vital  energy  to  that  degree  which  made  further 
progress  impossible.  Men  were  hastily  placed  on  hose 
wagons,  which  were  backed  in  together  to  form  a  circle.  A 
life  net  was  then  stretched  between  them,  in  case  his  strength 
should  give  out  and  his  grasp  relax.  Fortunately  at  this 
juncture,  one  of  the  firemen  with  a  special  knowledge  of 
knots  made  his  way  to  the  roof  of  the  house  upon  which 
the  fire-free  end  of  the  cable  was  attached.  Fastening  a 
rope  to  the  cable,  he  sawed  the  latter  through,  thus  enabling 
both  man  and  cable  to  be  lowered  inch  by  inch  towards 


REMINISCENCES    OF  A   FIRE-FIGHTER        27 

the  ground.  When  the  knot  joining  cable  to  rope  was 
reached,  the  officer  lost  his  hold  and  was  caught  by  his 
comrades  in  the  net  and  carried  into  the  street.  This  ex- 
citing escape  proved  no  barrier  to  the  further  duty  of  this 
fireman,  who  twenty-four  hours  after  this  incident  was 
able  to  report  for  service  and  "carry  on"  as  though  nothing 
had  happened. 

In  the  early  days  before  fire  departments  had  come  to  be 
officially  recognized,  dependence  had  necessarily  to  be  placed 
upon  volunteers  and  many  are  the  stories,  humorous  and 
pathetic,  which  could  be  told  about  them.  The  fascination 
of  the  service  certainly  extended  to  those  who  enrolled, 
judging  by  their  social  position  and  by  the  fact  that  many 
of  them  gave  up  valuable  time  in  order  the  better  to 
qualify  for  their  duties.  Some  peculiar  entries  are  to  be 
found  in  the  old  minute  books  of  these  stations,  indicative 
of  the  fact  that  the  commonest  breach  of  discipline  would 
appear  to  have  been  a  too  free  use  of  strong  language. 
Thus,  the  secretary  of  one  company  reports  a  fireman  for 
saying  to  him,  "You  be  damned,  you  damned  old  Dutch 
hog,"  for  which  he  was  severely  reprimanded;  while  the 
puritan  spirit  was  carried  so  far  that  a  man  was  fined 
for  saying  "Damn  the  odds." 

Some  fifty  years  ago  it  was  customary  for  all  young 
men  to  belong  to  associations  of  some  sort,  religious,  social, 
or  political.  The  story  goes  that  one  such  youth  was 
sitting  in  a  tavern  and  overheard  others  of  his  age  dis- 
cussing the  societies  to  which  they  subscribed.  This  filled 
him  with  a  desire  to  go  and  do  likewise,  so  on  his  return 
home  he  told  his  mother  of  his  ambition,  remarking  that 
he  was  not  particular  as  to  the  nature  of  the  club  which 
he  joined.  There  was  a  great  revival  going  on  in  those 
days  and  like  all  good  mothers  she  told  him  to  go  with 
her  and  join  the  church.  "Well,"  quoth  he,  "I  don't  spe- 
cially care  what  it  is,  but  I  must  belong  to  something." 
So  down  to  the  church  he  went,  but  to  his  chagrin  the  min- 
ister told  him  that  he  must  be  placed  on  probation  for 
three  months.  When  that  period  had  expired  he  was  told 


28  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

that  he  must  wait  yet  another  two  months.  Some  time 
passed,  when  one  day  the  minister  happened  to  meet  his 
probationer  walking  down  the  street  in  a  neat,  red  shirt, 
a  gaudy  pair  of  suspenders,  a  coat  thrown  over  his  arm 
and  bearing  a  number  on  his  back.  "Aha,"  said  the  pastor, 
"you're  the  one  I  want  to  see.  You  haven't  been  to  church 
of  late."  "No,  Dominie,"  answered  the  young  man,  "that 
probation  was  too  long  for  me."  "But,"  cried  the  former, 
"it  is  at  an  end  and  you  can  now  join  the  church."  "Too 
late,  too  late,  Dominie.  I've  joined  an  engine  company 
down  here  and  it's  going  to  take  all  my  time  to  look  after 
fires.  I'm  going  to  one  now.  You  see  I  was  bound  to 
join  something  and  these  fellows  let  me  in  without  any 
probation;  all  I  had  to  do  was  to  give  up  two  dollars 
and  I  was  called  a  member.  Come  round  to  see  us  Dominie, 
we've  got  as  bully  a  little  engine  as  ever  went  to  a  fire." 
From  which  it  may  deduced  that  the  pleasures  of  earthly 
fires  were  greater  to  the  majority  of  young  folk  than  the 
terrors  of  the  fires  to  come,  as  depicted  no  doubt  in  the 
Bible  meetings. 

About  that  time  one  of  the  most  popular  chiefs  was 
James  Gulick,  who  commanded  the  New  York  Fire  De- 
partment. The  following  incident  is  illustrative  of  the 
affection  in  which  he  was  held  by  his  men.  A  fire  had 
broken  out  in  Centre  Street,  adjoining  the  works  of  the 
New  York  Gas  Company,  which  had  destroyed  two  houses. 
Against  the  gable  end  of  one  of  the  burhing  buildings  a 
large  number  of  barrels  of  resin  were  piled,  and  the 
firemen  worked  diligently  to  save  them  by  rolling  them  into 
the  street.  The  night  was  intensely  cold,  and  somebody 
kindled  a  small  fire  with  a  part  of  the  contents  of  a  broken 
barrel,  which  the  workmen  employed  by  the  gas  company 
attempted  to  extinguish.  These  were  warned  by  the  firemen 
to  desist,  and  a  big,  heavy  fellow  who  continued  his  efforts 
was  pushed  away.  Thereupon  a  large  number  of  his  friends 
attacked  the  few  firemen  in  charge,  who  were  joined  by 
their  comrades  and  a  fight  ensued.  The  brigade  was  vic- 
torious. Gulick  heard  of  the  affair  and  hastened  to  the 


REMINISCENCES    OF   A   FIRE-FIGHTER        29 

scene  exclaiming,  "What  does  all  this  shameful  conduct 
mean  at  such  a  moment/'  The  only  answer  was  a  blow 
from  a  workman,  who  struck  his  head  from  behind  with 
an  iron  bar,  and  only  his  helmet  protected  him  from 
serious  injury.  Turning  upon  his  assailant  the  Chief  pur- 
sued him  across  the  ruins  of  a  fallen  wall  and  threw  him 
upon  the  debris,  but  was  followed  in  his  turn  by  some 
thirty  or  forty  employees.  "Men,  stand  by  your  Chief," 
was  the  cry  of  the  devoted  brigade,  and  in  an  instant  the 
attack  was  turned  into  a  rout,  the  workmen  taking  refuge 
in  the  gas  house.  Gulick,  by  almost  superhuman  efforts, 
forced  an  entrance  in  advance  of  his  enraged  followers,  and 
amid  volleys  of  coal  buckets,  called  upon  the  rioters  to 
surrender,  promising  protection.  His  reply  was  a  charge 
with  a  red-hot  poker,  which  fortunately  passed  through 
his  trumpet,  which  he  carried  under  his  arm.  This  put  an 
end  to  his  forbearance  and  jumping  from  the  doorway, 
he  shouted,  "Now  men,  surround  the  house;  don't  let  one 
of  them  escape."  The  excited  firemen  rushed  into  the 
building  and  administered  a  sound  thrashing  to  their  trucu- 
lent foes,  who  were  afterwards  arrested,  and  even  then  the 
former  were  not  appeased  and  attempted  to  destroy  the 
machinery  which  was  only  saved  by  the  Chief's  firmness 
and  discipline. 

After  the  great  fire  of  1835,  which  caused  twenty  million 
dollars'  worth  of  damage  and  dislodged  more  than  six  hun- 
dred mercantile  firms,  the  resignation  of  Gulick  was  de- 
manded, upon  which  the  brigade  in  toto  struck  work  and  it 
was  only  with  the  greatest  difficulty  that  it  was  reestab- 
lished on  a  satisfactory  basis. 

Perhaps  the  writer  may  be  forgiven  for  trespassing  upon 
the  patience  of  his  readers  to  the  extent  of  drawing  from 
his  own  personal  experience  some  anecdotes  illustrative 
of  the  various  phases  of  his  life,  both  before  and  since  he 
became  a  fireman.  If  there  is  any  truth  in  the  old  adage 
that  experientia  docet,  then  assuredly  thirty  years  of 
practical  fire-fighting  in  the  largest  organization  of  the  kind 
in  the  world  entitle  him  to  form  some  opinions  and  arrive 


30  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

at  some  conclusions.  It  would  not  be  difficult  to  write  a 
whole  book  with  the  personal  material  at  hand,  but  the 
present  object  is  rather  briefly  to  show  how  any  young 
man  minus  influence  or  capital,  but  possessed  of  determina- 
tion, may  climb  the  ladder  leading  to  positions  of  grave  re- 
sponsibility and  ultimately  to  the  head  of  his  chosen  pro- 
fession. Incidentally  the  writer  wishes  to  emphasize  the 
fact  that  his  advancement  was  in  no  way  due  to  any  excep- 
tional opportunities  or  to  what  is  termed  popularly  good 
luck,  but  rather  to  a  steady  and  unremitting  attention  to 
duty,  coupled  with  some  of  that  perseverance  which  in 
that  historic  race  between  the  hare  and  the  tortoise  gave 
the  victory  to  the  latter. 

Since  the  following  narratives  are  the  writer's  own  ex- 
periences, it  seems  more  apropos  to  relate  them  in  the  first 
person. 

At  the  immature  age  of  three  I  may  claim  to  have 
received  my  baptism  of  fire,  since  like  most  other  young- 
sters anything  to  do  with  the  forbidden  joys  of  matches 
possessed  an  unholy  fascination  for  me.  One  day  while 
playing  with  some  other  children,  whose  tastes  were  simi- 
lar to  my  own,  I  conceived  the  brilliant  idea  of  making 
a  good  blaze  in  the  hay  yard.  I  cannot  remember  whence 
I  procured  the  matches,  which  in  those  days  were  a  great 
luxury  and  were  carefully  hoarded,  but  since  desire  is  the 
father  of  acquisition,  by  hook  or  crook  I  secured  some, 
and  what  could  make  a  better  bonfire  than  a  haystack? 
Within  less  time  than  it  takes  to  write,  one  was  in  flames 
and  we  jumped  and  danced  around  it  playing  at  Red  In- 
dians, until  some  unsympathetic  neighbours  came  running 
from  all  directions  gesticulating  wildly.  It  then  occurred 
to  me  for  the  first  time  that  I  had  done  wrong,  and  I 
promptly  showed  a  clean  pair  of  heels  to  avenging  justice. 
Running  into  the  house  I  hid  under  the  bed  and  while 
workmen  and  friends  busied  themselves  in  saving  the  house, 
I  lay  there  not  daring  to  emerge.  Not  until  the  excitement 
had  subsided  were  enquiries  made  as  to  the  origin  of  the 
fire  and  knowing  my  foibles  I,  of  course,  was  suspected  and 


Copyright.  1888,  by  Harper  <£•  Brothers 


STRUGGLING  THROUGH    THE  DRIFTS 
OF  THE  GREAT  BLIZZARD. 


REMINISCENCES    OF   A    FIRE-FIGHTER        31 

a  search  was  instituted  for  the  incipient  firebug.  It  did 
not  take  long  to  discover  me  and  drag  me  forth,  when 
my  angry  mother  carried  me  to  an  adjacent  stream,  telling 
me  that  such  naughty  boys  had  better  be  drowned  early 
in  life  than  be  allowed  to  live  to  burn  up  property  and 
people.  My  feelings  of  remorse  can  easily  be  imagined, 
and  I  promised  that  never  in  my  life  would  I  again  start  a 
fire  and  that  always  I  would  do  whatever  lay  in  my  power 
to  extinguish  conflagrations. 

But  this  childish  prank,  aside  from  the  promise  that  I 
made  on  that  occasion  which  I  have  ever  kept,  taught  me  one 
great  lesson.  It  is,  that  children,  when  frightened  by  fire, 
have  a  tendency  to  conceal  themselves  under  beds,  and, 
therefore,  in  searching  a  dwelling,  firemen  never  neglect 
to  look  carefully  in  these  hiding  places.  When  children 
are  awakened  by  suffocating  smoke  or  by  members  of  the 
household  during  excitement  consequent  upon  fire,  unless 
watched  they  will  invariably  crawl  under  beds,  thinking  in 
their  childish  fancy  that  thereby  they  are  safely  hidden 
from  the  flames,  and  many  a  little  body  is  on  that  account 
brought  forth  lifeless. 

It  is,  of  course,  difficult  to  lay  down  any  hard  and  fast 
rule  for  occasions  of  this  sort,  but  it  might  be  impressed 
upon  children  from  their  very  earliest  years  that  under  no 
circumstances  should  they  adopt  this  method  of  hiding. 
Whether  in  games,  or  to  avoid  Mamma  with  a  slipper,  the 
practice  is  a  bad  one  and  though  the  actual  occasion  may 
never  arise  to  prove  the  value  of  this  instruction,  it  will 
undoubtedly,  in  that  odd  chance  of  five  hundred,  be  the 
means  of  preserving  a  precious  life.  In  fact,  this  is  the 
epitome  of  fire  control,  watch  and  be  prepared  for  the  odd 
chance,  for  just  as  the  individual  who  is  foolish  enough 
to  carry  a  revolver  will  probably  never  need  it,  but  if  he 
does,  will  need  it  uncommonly  badly,  so  in  all  fire  pre- 
cautions, necessity  for  their  use  may  never  arise,  but  should 
the  unforeseen  happen,  their  absence  may  prove  disastrous. 

From  my  childhood  I  always  possessed  a  great  love 
for  the  sea,  and  thus  it  happened  that  at  the  age  of  13,  I 


32  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

shipped  as  "boy"  in  a  top-sail  schooner  bound  from  White- 
haven  to  Dundalk  with  a  cargo  of  coal.  Her  name  was 
the  Gazelle,  and,  judging  by  her  behaviour  on  that  eventful 
trip,  her  owners  were  not  mistaken  in  thus  christening  her. 
We  left  Whitehaven  in  the  middle  of  an  unusually  stormy 
December  and  by  the  time  we  were  off  the  Isle  of  Man 
we  were  running  into  a  howling  southeasterly  gale,  which 
was  not  improved  by  incessant  squalls  of  blinding  sleet. 
Needless  to  say,  I  experienced  the  additional  discomfort  of 
being  horribly  sea-sick,  not  that  on  that  account  I  was  per- 
mitted to  escape  my  share  of  the  ship's  work.  I  can  re- 
member, as  though  it  were  yesterday,  making  my  way 
along  the  wave  swept  decks  and  wondering  what  on  earth 
had  ever  induced  me  to  leave  the  comforts  of  terra  firma 
for  such  an  inferno  of  physical  torment  as  was  apparently 
offered  by  a  sea  life.  After  hours  of  incessant  tacking  we 
managed  to  make  Belfast  Lough,  where  we  found 
shelter,  and  anchored  preparatory  to  riding  the  storm  out. 
The  ship  was  in  a  terribly  battered  condition,  sails  blown 
to  ribbons,  boats  washed  away  and  half  the  bulwarks  gone. 
"Ship's  boy"  in  those  days  was  synonymous  with  "maid 
of  all  work,"  and  as  there  is,  so  it  is  affirmed,  no  rest  for 
the  wicked,  I  was  promptly  told  off  to  make  up  a  good  fire 
in  the  "bogie,"  a  dirty  little  black  stove  which  smoked 
incessantly  and  had  been  the  bane  of  my  existence  during 
the  voyage.  Full  of  anxiety  to  disprove  the  reputation 
which  I  had  gained  as  a  sea-sick  land  lubber,  I  stoked  up 
and  soon  had  a  warm,  comfortable  glow  in  the  fo'castle. 
Then  I  turned  in. 

It  must  have  been  half  an  hour  later  that  I  awakened 
to  find  the  heat  becoming  oppressive.  The  cause  was  not 
far  to  seek,  the  boat  was  afire. 

The  black  bogie  had  again  played  me  a  low  trick  and  had 
become  red  hot.  Morever,  the  flue  had  caught  the  infection 
and,  in  its  turn,  was  transmitting  the  disease  so  effectually 
that  bulkhead  and  deck  planking  were  emitting  a  miniature 
Vesuvius  of  smoke  and  sparks.  Without  waiting  for  any 
instructions,  I  attacked  the  invader  with  buckets  of  water, 


REMINISCENCES   OF  A   FIRE-FIGHTER        33 

the  sleepy  crew  lending  an  extraordinarily  willing  hand 
when  they  realized  that  their  belongings  were  in  peril.  On 
the  painful  events  following  the  captain's  appearance,  I  will 
not  dwell.  Suffice  it  to  say  that  I  received  the  smartest 
lacing  the  old  man  could  give  me,  the  memory  of  which 
remained  with  me  long  after  I  had  left  the  merchant  service. 
But  the  moral  is  obvious.  Anything  more  ludicrous  than 
stove  pipes  passing  through  unprotected  wooden  bulkheads 
it  would  be  hard  to  imagine,  yet  such  is  the  conservatism 
of  the  sea  that  it  is  by  no  means  uncommon  to  find  such 
conditions  even  today  in  small  coasters  and  smacks. 

The  foregoing  was  my  first  fire  at  sea,  but  I  was  fated 
to  have  another  experience  of  a  more  serious  character. 
I  happened  to  be  quartermaster  in  the  old  "Abyssinia"  of 
the  now  defunct  Guion  Line,  plying  between  New  York 
and  Liverpool.  We  had  sailed  from  the  former  port  in 
the  month  of  July,  with  nine  hundred  passengers  of  all 
classes  and  a  full  cargo  of  cotton.  About  280  miles  east 
of  Cape  Race  a  fire  was  discovered  in  the  main  hold,  which, 
though  located  in  the  middle  of  the  night,  was  kept  from 
the  passengers'  knowledge  till  the  noon  of  the  following 
day,  when  the  united  efforts  of  the  crew  had  been  found 
insufficient  to  cope  with  the  outbreak.  The  captain  then 
decided  to  call  upon  the  passengers  to  lend  a  hand,  and 
men  and  women  from  saloon,  intermediate  and  steerage, 
bravely  combined  with  the  sailors  in  their  dangerous  task. 
Happily  the  sea  was  smooth  and,  to  the  lasting  credit  of 
all  concerned,  there  was  no  panic. 

Steam  was  used  to  fight  the  burning  cotton,  and  as  the 
seamen  were  overcome  by  smoke  in  the  darkness  of  the 
hold,  volunteers  took  their  places,  with  the  result  that 
after  three  days  of  incessant  labour  the  outbreak  was  under 
control.  Had  there  been  a  panic  or  had  the  flames  gained 
the  upper  hand,  the  result  would  have  been  hideous  beyond 
words  since  there  were  only  boats  to  accommodate  three 
hundred  persons.  It  only  remains  to  add  that  Queenstown 
was  made  in  safety  without  any  casualty,  and  though  the 
incident  lacks  any  spectacular  element,  it  contains  material 


34  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

for  thought  regarding  the  principles  governing  fire  control 
at  sea. 

The  use  of  steam  on  shipboard  for  the  extinction  of  fires 
is  general,  though  its  efficiency  is  open  to  serious  question. 
When  water  becomes  steam  it  is  practically  non-absorbent, 
since  in  assuming  this  form  it  has  been  subjected  to  great 
heat.  As  the  object  desired  in  fighting  a  fire  is  the  ab- 
sorption of  the  heat  created  by  the  flames,  it  is  apparent 
that  any  element  at  a  high  temperature  is  unable  to  obtain 
with  certainty  its  reduction.  All  that  can  be  expected  from 
steam  is  that  by  its  moisture  it  may  be  able  to  check  a 
further  advance  of  the  enemy.  Hence,  if  steam  must  be 
used  let  it  contain  as  much  moisture  as  possible  or,  in 
simple  language,  let  it  be  used  at  as  low  a  temperature  as 
is  compatible  with  its  existence.  But  in  the  opinion  of 
the  writer  the  whole  subject  is  one  of  such  a  highly  com- 
plex character,  and  withal  of  such  overwhelming  impor- 
tance that  it  merits  the  study  and  consideration  of  all  con- 
cerned in  the  safety  of  passengers  and  cargo  in  ocean 
going  vessels. 

About  the  autumn  of  1878  I  shipped  as  first  officer  on 
a  steamer  bound  from  Chicago  to  Buffalo  with  a  cargo  of 
oats.  All  went  well  until  we  were  in  Lake  Erie,  about 
sixty  miles  from  Buffalo.  I  had  a  trick  at  the  wheel  from 
8  to  12  in  the  first  night  watch  and  on  being  relieved  I 
went  forward  to  the  deck-house,  filled  my  pipe  and  prepared 
to  enjoy  a  smoke.  Scarcely  had  I  got  it  well  alight  when 
I  heard  a  cry  of  fire,  and  rushing  out,  saw  flames  bursting 
through  the  after  hatch  close  to  the  companion-way  leading 
to  the  cabin.  The  captain,  who  had  been  on  deck  most 
of  the  time  during  the  first  watch,  had  gone  below  a  few 
minutes  before.  His  wife,  who  was  with  us  on  the  trip, 
was  in  the  cabin  at  the  moment.  Running  aft  I  realized 
we  had  a  very  dangerous  fire  with  which  to  contend.  The 
deck  watch,  in  charge  of  the  mate,  attacked  the  blaze 
and  I  dashed  into  the  cabin  to  notify  the  captain  and  his 
wife. 

In  a  few  minutes  they  were  both  on  deck  and  the  fire 


REMINISCENCES   OF  A   FIRE-FIGHTER        35 

had  so  increased  that  I  suggested  the  advisability  of  getting 
out  the  boat  and  launching,  in  addition,  the  life  raft  which 
we  carried.  This  was  agreed  upon,  since  the  steamer  was 
constructed  of  wood  and  her  condition  was  hopeless.  We 
succeeded  in  lowering  the  raft,  but  the  flames  had  spread 
with  such  rapidity  that  they  had  enveloped  that  part  of 
the  ship  from  which  the  life-boat  swung,  making  its 
launching  an  impossibility.  Wrapping  a  blanket  around  the 
captain's  wife,  who  was  clad  only  in  her  night-dress,  we 
were  able  to  get  her  on  the  raft,  but  she  suddenly  remem- 
bered that  her  jewellery  had  been  left  behind  and  implored 
her  husband  to  secure  it  for  her.  His  complaisance  almost 
cost  him  his  life,  for  on  his  return  to  the  cabin  he  was 
severely  burnt  about  the  head  and  face  and  he  failed,  in 
addition,  to  gain  his  object.  The  dry  oats  proved  excellent 
fuel,  and  it  speedily  became  evident  that  the  ship  was 
doomed.  We  had  either  to  remain  by  it  or  to  take  to  the 
raft,  which  was  built  to  carry  ten  persons,  while  we  were 
fourteen  all  told.  The  stokers,  engineers  and  deck  hands 
joined  the  terrified  woman,  while  the  captain,  the  mate 
and  I  went  forward  to  that  part  of  the  vessel  which  was 
not  yet  involved  in  the  general  conflagration.  We  stood 
together  near  the  bow  watching  the  fire  advance  slowly 
toward  us.  The  heat  was  intense  and  the  lake  was  lighted 
up  for  miles  around  by  the  flames.  Suddenly  the  fore- 
mast fell.  It  barely  missed  the  captain,  who  stood  in  a 
dazed  condition  by  my  side.  The  mate  and  I  realized  that 
in  a  few  minutes  we  should  be  forced  to  jump  overboard 
and  made  ready  by  removing  our  clothing,  until  we  stood 
only  in  our  undershirts  and  trousers.  From  the  raft, 
which  was  about  250  feet  to  windward  of  the  burning 
vessel,  came  an  imploring  cry,  beseeching  the  captain  to 
leave  his  ship  and  come  to  his  wife.  He  shook  hands 
with  us  and  sprang  overboard.  As  he  was  a  powerful 
swimmer,  he  was  soon  alongside  the  raft.  We,  how- 
ever, remained  where  we  were  for  perhaps  ten  minutes, 
when  it  became  a  question  of  death  by  fire  or  taking  our 
chances  in  the  water.  The  water  seemed  inviting  in  com- 


36  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

parison  with  the  flames,  and  we  did  not  hesitate  to  plunge 
overboard  after  saying  "Good-bye"  and  murmuring  a  few 
words  of  prayer.  Never  shall  I  forget  my  sensations  when 
I  felt  the  cold  waters  of  Lake  Erie  that  October  morning ! 
Actually  blistering  from  the  heat,  I  thought  I  had  been 
suddenly  transported  to  Paradise.  Between  the  pleasures 
of  dying  by  drowning  and  the  horrors  of  being  roasted 
to  death  there  is  a  gulf  almost  as  wide  as  that  which 
divides  the  celestial  realms  from  the  regions  of  the  damned, 
and  the  sense  of  security  and  relief  from  pain  was  almost 
indescribable.  But  now  a  new  difficulty  confronted  me. 

I  had  learned  to  swim  in  salt  water  and  I  found  the  fresh 
water  exceedingly  light  and  hard  in  which  to  keep  afloat. 
By  easy  strokes  I  contrived  to  get  near  the  raft,  but  alas, 
there  was  no  room  for  me  upon  it  and  any  such  attempt  on 
my  part  would  have  spelled  disaster  and  probable  death  to 
all  concerned.  Floating  and  swimming  by  turns  I  kept  up 
for  about  an  hour  when  my  strength  began  to  waver  and 
semi-unconsciousness  supervened.  Amongst  the  crew  was 
a  negro  cook  who  sang  songs  and  cracked  jokes  in  an 
effort  to  keep  up  the  courage  of  his  unfortunate  comrades. 
All  the  time  that  I  had  been  swimming  by  the  raft,  this 
cheerful  creature  had  watched  me,  and  as  I  was  about  to 
sink  I  felt  his  hand  take  hold  of  my  shirt  and  heard  his 
voice  in  words  of  comfort.  He  quietly  drew  me 'toward 
him  and  with  the  help  of  the  chief  engineer  got  me  se- 
curely seated  on  the  raft.  Then  he  slipped  overboard, 
where  he  lay  on  his  back  and  floated  like  a  chip.  For 
seven  hours  he  stayed  in  the  water,  helping  the  captain 
and  mate  alternately  to  rest  on  the  raft  when  they  be- 
came exhausted.  The  chief  engineer  and  another  took 
turns  in  swimming,  but  neither  stayed  in  the  water  as  long 
as  did  this  sturdy  coloured  man.  Never  once  did  he  com- 
plain. He  was  the  same  cheerful  soul  at  the  end  of  his 
long  trial  as  he  had  been  when  he  left  Chicago.  We  were 
rescued  eventually  by  a  tug  which  had  put  out  from  Buf- 
falo, having  seen  the  flames  sixty  miles  away.  The  mem- 
ory of  that  brave  negro  has  always  remained  with  me. 


REMINISCENCES   OF  A   FIRE-FIGHTER        37 

I  may  say  that  I  owe  my  life  to  him,  for,  though  a  fair 
swimmer,  I  could  never  have  lasted  through  those  terrible 
eight  hours  without  his  unselfish  assistance.  There  has  al- 
ways been  in  my  heart  a  feeling  of  gratitude,  not  alone 
to  the  brave  fellow  who,  I  am  sorry  to  say,  lost  his  life 
afterwards  in  a  railway  accident,  but  to  the  race  to  which 
he  belonged. 

Many  years  afterwards,  when  an  engineer  of  a  certain 
company,  I  had  an  opportunity  of  vicariously  pay- 
ing off  something  of  this  debt.  We  responded  to  a 
fire,  which  proved  to  be  in  a  tenement  occupied  by  coloured 
people.  The  building  was  already  a  mass  of  flames  and 
several  persons  on  the  upper  floors  were  cut  off  from 
escape.  Two  coloured  women  and  a  little  boy  were  trapped 
on  the  third  floor.  Mounting  to  the  windows  by  extension 
ladders,  we  could  see  them  with  their  clothing  already  on 
fire.  The  only  chance  of  saving  them  was  a  desperate 
one,  but  we  took  it.  Fireman  Malavey  and  I  entered  and 
succeeded  in  passing  the  three  to  others  outside,  who  car- 
ried them  safely  to  the  ground.  The  boy  and  young  wo- 
man are  alive  today,  but  the  elder  woman  was  so  badly 
burnt  that  she  died  in  the  hospital  on  the  following  morning. 
It  only  remains  to  be  said  that  the  one  life  lost  in  the  Lake 
Erie  fire  was  that  of  the  captain's  wife,  who  succumbed 
shortly  afterwards  from  exposure,  a  circumstance  made 
doubly  sad  from  the  fact  that  she  was  a  beautiful  bride 
of  only  four  months. 

Curiously  enough,  my  first  active  service  in  the  New 
York  Fire  Department  was  in  connection  with  a  vessel 
on  fire  and  is  illustrative  of  the  adage  that  all  knowledge 
is  valuable. 

As  is  usually  the  case  with  a  new  member  of  the  force, 
I  was  extremely  nervous  during  my  first  nights  at  the 
station.  Although  my  sea- faring  life  had  taught  me  to  be 
accustomed  to  turning  out  any  moment  and  in  all  sorts 
of  weather,  I  speedily  found  that  the  watching  and  wait- 
ing for  the  alarm  gong  possessed  a  mental  strain  of  its 
own,  which,  incidentally,  is  common  to  all  fire-fighters. 


38  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

During  the  night  in  question  I  had  lain  awake  with  tense 
nerves,  fearing  that  the  call  might  come  and  that  I  might 
get  left  behind.  Then  I  fell  into  a  troubled  sleep,  to  be 
roused  by  the  sound  I  had  so  long  expected.  In  my  anxiety 
I  stumbled  over  my  own  boots  and  narrowly  escaped  up- 
setting my  neighbour,  who  did  not  appreciate  the  atten- 
tion. I  gained  my  object,  however,  and  my  nightmare  of 
missing  my  first  alarm  dissolved  as  we  galloped  through 
the  silent  streets. 

A  French  ship  was  involved,  a  fire  having  broken  out 
in  the  forward  hold.  With  enthusiasm,  I  seized  a  length 
of  hose,  only  to  be  told  in  official  phraseology  to  leave  it 
alone.  Not  comprehending  the  order,  I  attempted  to  board 
the  vessel,  but  was  stopped  by  the  battalion  chief,  who 
recognized  in  me  a  recruit.  Perhaps  I  may  here  remark 
that  it  took  me  a  full  month  to  master  the  regular  words 
of  command,  which  are  peculiar  to  fire  departments. 
Eventually  I  found  my  chance,  for  with  my  marine  knowl- 
edge I  knew  how  best  to  tackle  the  trouble,  and,  creeping 
along  through  the  smoke,  made  my  way  to  the  heart  of 
the  outbreak.  There  I  was  found  later  by  the  Chief, 
who,  finding  me  on  my  face  using  the  hose  to  the  best 
of  my  ability,  told  me  to  get  up,  and  lending  me  a  help- 
ing hand,  together  we  extinguished  the  fire.  I  was  later 
complimented  on  my  action,  and  I  am  happy  to  say  that 
my  kindly  mentor  still  survives  and  occupies  an  honoured 
position  in  the  department. 

Out  of  the  memories  of  my  many  years'  experience  of 
fire-fighting  it  is  difficult  to  select  one  particular  conflagra- 
tion as  being  more  thrilling  in  its  incidents  than  any 
other.  All  fires  entail  risk  to  life  in  a  greater  or  smaller 
degree,  and  are  therefore  replete  with  that  human  interest 
which  makes  special  appeal  to  the  heart.  For  even  in  the 
factory  or  warehouse  outbreak  human  lives  are  endangered ; 
the  lives  of  the  firemen  employed.  But  sometimes  cir- 
cumstances do  arise  which  require  the  pen  of  a  Stevenson 
to  give  them  that  actuality  and  force  which  alone  can 
depict  them  in  their  fearful  vividness. 


THE  GENNEVILLIEBS  GAS-WORKS   FIRE  BRIGADE 
LIFE-SAVING   TRUCK. 


REMINISCENCES   OF  A   FIRE-FIGHTER        39 

To  my  dying  day  I  shall  never  forget  the  horrors  ac- 
companying the  burning  of  the  Park  Avenue  Hotel. 

At  1.30  on  the  morning  of  February  22nd,  1902,  the 
gong  in  the  quarters  of  Engine  Co.  72  sounded  3-3-446, 
which,  translated  into  bald  English,  signified  the  fact  that 
a  dangerous  and  threatening  fire  was  raging  in  the  vicinity 
of  Park  Avenue  and  Thirty- fourth  Street  in  the  Borough 
of  Manhattan,  New  York  City.  In  other  words,  it  was  a 
third  alarm,  summoning  to  the  scene  thirteen  engine  com- 
panies, four  hook  and  ladder  companies,  the  Chief  of  the 
Department,  the  Deputy  Chief,  and  four  Battalion  Chiefs. 
Engine  Company  72  responded  on  the  third  alarm  and 
in  less  than  twenty  seconds  after  the  receipt  of  the  first 
tap  of  the  gong  they  were  clear  of  the  doors  of  the  quarters 
and  on  their  way  to  the  fire.  At  that  time  I  was  Captain 
of  this  company,  and  beginning  to  feel  the  full  weight  of 
my  responsibility.  A  fierce  gale  from  the  northeast  raged 
about  us  as  we  left  our  comfortable  quarters,  the  snow  and 
sleet  lashing  our  faces  and  making  vision  almost  impossible. 
The  driver  of  the  engine  has  since  often  assured  me  that 
for  a  mile  and  a  half  of  the  distance  to  be  covered  he  let 
his  horses  gallop  without  knowing  his  precise  whereabouts. 
Yet  in  spite  of  the  storm  we  reached  the  scene  of  the  fire 
in  less  than  five  minutes. 

On  our  arrival  we  found  that  the  7ist  Regimental 
Armory,  situated  at  the  southeast  corner  of  Park 
Avenue  and  Thirty- fourth  Street,  was  ablaze.  The 
interior  of  this  imitation  fortress  was  of  wood  and 
filled  with  arms  and  ammunition  of  every  description. 
Evidently  the  fire  had  been  burning  for  some  time,  for  as 
we  pulled  up  there  was  a  constant  rattle  of  exploding 
cartridges,  for  all  the  world  as  though  our  services  had 
been  requisitioned  to  a  field  of  battle.  In  addition  to  this 
the  building  was  heavily  charged  with  a  smoke,  which 
reached  the  explosive  point  as  soon  as  an  opening  admitting 
a  fresh  supply  of  oxygen  was  effected.  Orders  were  re- 
ceived from  the  commanding  officer,  Deputy  Chief  Duane, 
that  a  line  was  to  be  taken  into  the  armory  by  the  Thirty- 


40  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

fourth  street  entrance.  At  this  moment  the  truck  com- 
panies succeeded  in  opening  these  doors,  but  the  pressure 
of  heated  air  and  gas  blew  the  men  back  into  the  street. 
Almost  instantly  the  whole  interior  of  the  building  was  a 
seething  mass  of  flame.  Nothing  further,  apparently,  could 
be  done  here,  as  my  instructions  then  were  to  cover  the 
dwelling  houses  on  the  east  side  of  Thirty- fourth  Street, 
where  we  fought  the  fire  back  until  the  wall  of  this  part  of 
the  armory  fell  outwards,  burying  our  line  and  cutting  it  in 
two.  Some  idea  of  the  difficulties  confronting  us  can  be 
imagined  when  I  add  that  the  position  from  which  we 
were  fighting  consisted  of  a  narrow  strip  of  street,  some 
twenty-five  feet  wide,  bounded  on  one  side  by  the  flames 
and  on  the  other  by  a  trench  forty  feet  deep,  which  was 
being  prepared  for  the  reception  of  the  present  subway. 
The  break  in  our  line  naturally  shut  off  the  stream,  and 
I  went  immediately  to  see  what  had  happened.  Meeting 
the  officer  in  charge,  I  was  ordered  to  take  yet  another 
position  in  Park  Avenue,  in  order  to  cover  the  Fourth 
Avenue  car  stables.  These  were  to  the  south  of  the  fire 
and  it  was  this  change  which  brought  my  company  into 
a  position  that  enabled  it  to  assist  in  the  most  harrowing 
and  exciting  events  that  I  have  ever  experienced  on  land 
or  sea. 

To  begin  with,  this  manoeuvre  necessitated  our  crossing 
the  subway  trench,  which,  incidentally,  we  were  told,  con- 
tained three  tons  of  blasting  powder.  It  has  always  been 
a  marvel  to  me  that  this  did  not  explode,  exposed  as  it 
was  to  sparks  and  burning  embers.  We  managed  to  reach 
our  goal  in  safety  by  means  of  the  engineering  shores  used 
in  the  "cut  and  cover"  system  of  excavation. 

At  this  moment,  from  some  unexplained  cause 
the  Park  Avenue  Hotel  took  fire.  The  figure  of 
a  woman  clad  only  in  her  night  clothes  appeared 
at  a  fifth-story  window  and  above  the  roar  of  the 
flames  and  the  exploding  of  the  ammunition  could 
be  heard  screaming  for  help.  Even  as  her  voice  rang 
out,  guests  could  be  seen  watching  the  conflagration  from 


REMINISCENCES   OF  A   FIRE-FIGHTER        41 

their  bedrooms,  while  in  the  foyer  men  were  strolling 
about,  cigars  in  their  mouths,  discussing  with  interest  the 
probable  amount  of  damage  which  would  be  caused  by  the 
blaze.  Little  did  they  realize  that  the  angel  of  death,  with 
wings  outstretched,  was  hovering  over  the  building  in 
which  they  were.  Our  change  of  position  made  us  among 
the  foremost  to  effect  an  entrance.  From  the  first  we  were 
hampered  by  the  revolving  doors,  which  prevented  our 
handling  our  lines  with  facility.  Thus  valuable  time  was 
lost  and  our  task  rendered  the  more  difficult.  Our  arrival 
had  been  heralded  with  the  frankest  incredulity,  but  once 
onlookers  realized  the  grizzly  danger  threatening  their  dear 
ones,  they  had  to  be  forcibly  restrained  from  adding  them- 
selves to  the  human  sacrifices  awaiting  us  upon  the  floors 
above. 

As  we  climbed  the  stairs  the  smoke  grew  denser  and 
denser,  till  our  breath  came  in  strangling  gasps  and 
physical  endurance  seemed  about  to  fail.  It  was  impossible 
to  see.  On  hands  and  knees  we  groped  and  felt  like  blind 
men,  instinct  our  only  guide. 

And  then  the  horror! 

Imagine  crawling  sightless  along  a  strange  corridor.  Im- 
agine the  outstretched  hand  wandering  over  an  unknown 
substance  which  slowly  reveals  itself  to  be  a  corpse.  That 
would  be  a  ghastly  situation.  But  add  to  it  the  distant 
crackling  of  flame  licking  its  way  remorselessly  from  floor 
to  floor,  the  shouts  of  firemen  in  difficulty,  the  sobs  and 
piteous  entreaties  of  unseen  women  dying  slowly  from 
suffocation;  and  can  Hell  be  pictured  as  more  hideous! 

Grimly,  however,  all  ranks  alike  stuck  to  their  lines, 
scrambled  over  these  gruesome  barriers  and  with  almost 
miraculous  tenacity  of  purpose  succeeded  in  quelling  the 
grim  destroyer.  As  a  matter  of  fact  the  whole  outbreak 
was  under  control  within  a  short  time  and  it  was  then  possi- 
ble to  realize  the  tragic  uncertainty  of  life.  For  had  the 
men  and  women,  whose  lifeless  forms  encumbered  the  pas- 
sages, only  remained  in  their  rooms,  not  one  need  have  been 
lost. 


42  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

As  we  returned  from  the  holocaust  and  passed  through 
the  front  hall,  it  seemed  incredible  that  even  then  there  were 
those  who  were  still  sceptical  that  Death,  the  Reaper,  had 
passed  with  his  scythe.  But  next  day,  the  unfortunates  in 
the  Tombs  prison  knew  of  the  harvest,  for  amongst  those 
who  had  fallen  in  the  mowing  was  one  whom  they  called 
their  angel,  Mrs.  Foster,  the  Florence  Nightingale  of 
prisoners. 

No  lives  were  lost  in  the  Armory  fire,  but  the  number  of 
persons  who  perished  in  the  hotel  amounted  to  twenty. 

It  is  naturally  impossible  to  lay  down  hard  and  fast 
rules  for  the  guidance  of  people  who  are  unfortunate 
enough  to  be  caught  in  such  fires,  but  broadly,  the  safest 
course  to  pursue  is  to  avoid  the  vicinity  of  elevator  shafts. 

Perhaps  I  may  include  amongst  these  few  stories  an  inci- 
dent so  commonplace  to  the  fire-fighter  that  it  was  never 
even  officially  reported,  but  which  should  bring  home  to 
the  outsider  the  daily  unconsidered  risks  accepted  by  the 
former  without  demur. 

On  this  particular  occasion  the  Captain  of  our  com- 
pany received  orders  to  take  his  line  to  the  roof  of  the 
building  to  the  north  of  the  one  on  fire.  The  intention  was 
to  breach  the  wall  of  the  burning  structure  with  battering 
rams,  in  order  to  better  attack  the  flames.  As  our  point 
of  vantage  was  some  fifteen  feet  lower  than  the  top  of  the 
wall  to  be  attacked,  this  move  was  excellent  strategy.  We 
lowered  our  roof  rope  to  the  street,  where  it  was  made  fast 
to  the  hose  and  hoisted  up  to  be  in  readiness.  In  order 
to  make  it  perfectly  secure  I  was  instructed  to  lash  it  at 
the  cornice  of  the  roof  with  a  special  knot,  known  to  fire- 
men as  a  "rolling  hitch,"  preparatory  to  starting  the  water. 
Properly  to  adjust  the  knot  it  was  necessary  for  me  to  lie 
at  full  length  near  the  edge.  I  had  just  got  a  turn  of  the 
rope  round  the  hose,  when  a  warning  cry  caused  me  to 
look  around  and  I  saw  all  hands  running  for  the  north 
coping.  There  was  no  need  to  tell  me  that  the  wall 
was  falling  out  and  I  jumped  to  my  feet,  letting  go 
of  rope  and  hose.  By  great  good  luck  I  escaped  becoming 


REMINISCENCES    OF  A   FIRE-FIGHTER        43 

entangled  with  them  or  I  should  have  been  dragged  to  my 
death.  Just  as  I  reached  my  comrades,  the  wall  crashed 
down,  carrying  with  it  the  roof  of  our  building  and  the 
fire  instantly  swept  into  the  rooms  beneath  us.  It  then  be- 
came imperative  that  we  should  reach  the  next  house  by 
hook  or  by  crook  or  perish.  Between  us  and  safety  was 
a  "pocket/'  that  is  to  say,  there  was  first  a  drop  of  some 
fifteen  feet  on  to  tiles,  followed  by  a  climb  of  the  same 
height  up  a  bare  wall.  This  latter  appeared  to  offer  an 
insurmountable  obstacle,  but  the  fire  was  hard  on  our  heels 
and  desperate  men  reck  little  of  seeming  impossibility.  One 
of  our  number,  a  giant  in  stature  and  strength,  named 
Michael  Byrne,  raised  me  on  his  shoulders  and  like  an 
acrobat  I  placed  my  feet  in  his  hands,  making  our  com- 
bined length  almost  the  height  of  the  wall.  With  a  slight 
spring  I  succeeded  in  clutching  the  top  of  the  coping  and 
with  sailor-like  agility  I  hauled  myself  up.  Finding  a  short 
ladder  on  the  roof  I  passed  it  down,  by  which  means  the 
others  escaped,  though  the  captain,  the  last  to  leave  his  post 
of  danger,  was  badly  burnt  about  the  face  and  hands. 

While  there  must  always  be  difficulty  attendant  upon 
the  fighting  of  fires,  as  can  be  imagined,  those  that  occur 
in  the  winter  months  are  by  far  the  most  physically  trying. 
For  instance,  during  the  great  blizzard  of  1888,  which 
paralyzed  all  traffic  in  New  York,  my  company  was  sum- 
moned to  a  fire.  All  telegraph  wires  were  down,  and  the 
alarm  was  brought  in  by  a  mounted  messenger.  On  leav- 
ing the  quarters  we  found  the  streets  nearly  impassable,  and 
after  an  odd  hundred  yards  our  apparatus  became  stalled. 
We  then  commandeered  any  horses  we  could  find,  and 
pushing  and  pulling  we  worked  our  way  through  the  snow- 
drifts to  within  three  hundred  yards  of  the  outbreak,  where 
the  engine  pole  snapped  in  two.  We  left  the  latter  where 
it  was,  but  succeeded  in  securing  sufficient  hose  to  be 
serviceable,  and  for  thirty-six  hours  we  remained  on  duty 
without  food  or  rest. 

Again  it  sometimes  happens  that  the  fire  hydrants  become 
frozen  and  precious  time  is  lost  in  thawing  them,  though 


44  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

now-a-days  this  occurrence  is  becoming  increasingly  rare, 
owing  to  the  improvements  introduced  in  modern  water 
supply.  But  in  northern  latitudes  King  Frost  is  the  bete 
noire  of  the  fire-fighter,  and  must  be  held  indirectly  respon- 
sible for  some  of  those  catastrophes  which  occur  during  his 
reign. 

In  concluding  these  brief  personal  reminiscences  the 
writer  hopes  that  he  has  shown  in  a  straightforward  way 
what  the  life  of  the  fire-fighter  really  is,  the  stirring  inci- 
dents which  compose  it  and  the  great  possibilities  therein 
for  young  men  of  enterprise  and  ambition.  Some  months 
ago  the  whole  civilized  world  was  stirred  to  its  depths  by 
the  tragic  and  glorious  death  of  the  British  explorer,  Cap- 
tain Scott.  It  has  been  said  and  said  rightly,  that  the 
world  is  the  better  for  the  man  and  his  example,  which  will 
live  through  the  ages  and  doubtless  will  serve  to  stimulate 
others,  when  called  upon  to  face  great  crises.  And  the 
writer  ventures  to  say  with  all  humility  that  the  fireman 
hero,  though  unknown  to  history  and  unsung  in  legend, 
meets  death  as  bravely  and  dies  as  gloriously  in  the  service 
of  his  country  and  his  people. 


CHAPTER  V 

THE  FRENCH   FIRE-FIGHTER 

THE  history  of  the  Paris  fire  brigade  is  of  exceptional 
interest  and  well  deserves  study.  Its  early  organization  and 
manifold  developments  were  contemporary  with  the  prin- 
cipal change  of  thought  and  government  in  France,  and  to 
a  certain  degree  echo  the  tendency  of  different  forms  of 
State  control  favoured  in  that  country  during  the  past  two 
centuries. 

In  the  year  1716,  the  city  of  Paris  organized  its  first 
regularly  constituted  fire-fighting  force.  This  consisted, 
so  it  is  stated,  of  thirty-six  manual  engines  with  a  per- 
sonnel of  forty  to  operate  them.  By  1785  the  personnel  had 
increased  to  three  hundred,  and  in  1789  the  first  fire  regu- 
lations were  issued.  The  year  1807  saw  the  force  placed 
under  the  command  of  the  Prefect  of  Police  and  the  in- 
troduction of  the  brass  helmet,  which  is  still  worn  by  bri- 
gades of  distinctly  conservative  tendencies,  notably  the 
London  force. 

Thus,  whilst  originally  a  civil  organization,  in  1811  it 
was  turned  into  a  military  corps,  and  in  1867  it  was  ad- 
vanced to  the  status  of  a  regular  regiment  commanded  by 
a  Colonel  and  consisting  of  two  battalions  of  five  com- 
panies each.  In  this  formation  it  remains  today,  with  the 
slight  difference  that  now  each  battalion  numbers  six  com- 
panies, its  official  designation  being  Le  Regiment  des  Sa- 
peurs  Pompiers. 

By  its  constitution,  the  Paris  fire  brigade  is  something 
more  than  a  purely  fire-fighting  force.  In  times  of  disturb- 
ance or  war  it  may  be  called  upon  for  military  duty,  though 
it  is  difficult  to  see  how  the  fire  risks  of  Paris  could  be 

45 


46  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

guarded  were  such  a  step  ever  taken.  However,  though 
under  the  military  authorities  as  far  as  recruiting,  internal 
administration,  discipline,  promotion  and  punishment  are 
concerned,  for  fire  purposes  it  is  placed  under  the  direct 
orders  of  the  Prefect  of  Police,  whose  wishes  regarding 
all  technical  matters  such  as  scientific  training,  fire  mo- 
bilization and  equipment  are  paramount.  Add  to  this  that 
the  City  of  Paris  is  financially  responsible  for  the  entire 
expense  of  the  regiment  and  it  will  be  seen  that  there  are 
no  less  than  three  interested  parties  in  the  maintenance  of 
the  corps. 

Hence,  in  order  to  avoid  confusion  and  friction,  there  is 
a  joint  committee  formed  of  members  from  these  admin- 
istrations, which  settles  all  questions  involving  its  common 
interests. 

The  present  strength  of  the  force  consists  of  the  Colonel 
Commanding,  forty-eight  officers,  four  medical  officers, 
and  1,803  non-commissioned  officers  and  men.  Of  the 
latter  two  hundred  are  sergeants,  three  hundred  and  sixteen 
are  corporals,  the  balance  of  1,287  being  rated  as  firemen. 

As  a  rule  officers  are  recruited  from  ordinary  infantry 
regiments,  entering  as  sub-lieutenants,  but  they  are  first 
obliged  to  pass  a  medical  and  technical  examination  before 
a  special  commission.  If  successful,  they  then  undergo 
a  course  of  fire  service  instruction,  and  are  required  to 
attend  all  important  fires  as  spectators  in  order  to  familiar- 
ize themselves  with  the  actual  handling  of  apparatus.  No 
doubt  it  is  easy  to  be  hypercritical,  but  to  the  scientific 
fire-fighter,  this  appears  to  introduce  an  element  of  weak- 
ness. The  marine  engineer  officer  does  not  learn  his  call- 
ing by  watching  the  efforts  of  others  any  more  than  the 
surgeon  is  qualified  to  operate  upon  a  patient  because  he 
has  had  the  chance  of  observing  the  greatest  masters 
of  the  knife.  It  cannot  be  too  strongly  emphasized  that 
fire-fighting  is  a  science  which  demands  of  its  students  that 
they  should  understand  its  complexities  from  A  to  Z,  and 
this  can  never  be  accomplished  by  any  amount  of  theoreti- 
cal schooling. 


THE    FRENCH    FIRE-FIGHTER  47 

To  this  extent,  then,  it  may  be  questioned  whether  the 
training  of  the  officers  serving  in  the  Paris  fire  department 
is  of  the  best  for  practical  purposes. 

Non-commissioned  officers,  who,  under  the  conscription 
law,  may  elect  to  do  their  service  with  this  corps,  are 
not  required  to  pass  the  technical  test  should  they  wish 
to  remain  with  the  regiment.  Senior  non-commissioned 
officers  rank  as  warrant  officers  and  as  a  rule  serve  for 
twenty-five  years,  while  corporals  and  firemen  are  limited 
to  fifteen  years'  service,  then  retiring  with  a  pension. 

The  regiment  is  recruited  principally  from  artisans, 
builders,  laborers,  mechanics  and  coachmen,  the  idea  pre- 
sumably being  that  most  of  the  running  repairs  and  a  cer- 
tain proportion  of  constructional  work  should  be  carried 
out  by  these  men  in  the  workshops  of  the  brigade.  Now 
this  system  is  also  open  to  comment.  A  firemen  should 
be  first  and  foremost  a  fireman.  The  last  thing  that  should 
be  made  of  him  is  a  Jack  of  all  trades.  His  calling  is  of  the 
most  strenuous  and  when  not  actively  engaged  at  fires  he 
has  plenty  to  do  in  seeing  that  his  apparatus  is  in  proper 
condition.  To  set  him  to  construct  the  body  of  a  de- 
partmental automobile  or  to  repair  a  major  defect  in  a 
pumping  engine,  is  to  remove  him  from  his  proper  sphere 
of  operations,  and  since  science  has  not  yet  solved  the  prob- 
lem of  keeping  one  man  in  two  places  at  the  same  time,  the 
actual  fighting  units  must  be  proportionately  weakened. 

The  pay  of  the  Paris  firemen,  according  to  American 
ideas  is  so  small  as  to  seem  ludicrous,  but  it  should  be  re- 
membered that  it  is  based  upon  the  army  scale,  which  in 
all  European  countries  is  framed  upon  as  low  a  basis  as 
possible.  It  commences  roughly  at  thirty  cents  per  diem, 
rising  to  forty-four  cents  should  the  fireman  gain  the  rank 
of  corporal  during  his  three  years  under  the  conscription 
law. 

Otherwise  the  pay  of  those  proposing  to  qualify  for  a 
pension  ranges  from  $275  to  $325  per  annum.  Free  quar- 
ters are  provided  for  the  married  and  unmarried  non-com- 
missioned officers  and  men,  as  well  as  lights,  fuel  and  uni- 


FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 


forms,  but  no  messing  is  included.  Regular  firemen  get  30 
days  leave  annually,  but  conscriptionaires  only  15,  there 
being  short  leave  once  a  week  for  all  ranks. 

It  will  be  seen  from  an  examination  of  the  following 
table  that  the  area  of  Paris  has  increased  in  the  proportion 
of  I  to  2.26  since  1841,  and  that  the  number  of  fires  is  ten 
times  as  many  as  at  that  date.  During  the  same  period  the 
strength  of  the  brigade  has  only  been  doubled. 


Year 

•§"5 

5l 

Area  of 
Paris 

Popula- 
tion 

i  fire- 
man for 
each  — 
inhabts. 

Expenditure 

Number 
of  fires 

One 
fire 
every 

—  hours 

1841  

803 

13  26  sq.  mis. 

935  260 

I  145 

1  $  146  745 

203 

43 

1857  

889 

13  26  sq.  mis. 

I  278  705 

I  438 

\£    29,349 
{$  169  380 

298 

29 

1860 

1  208 

30  2  sq  mis 

I  527  486 

I  241 

£  33,876 

/  $  208  495 

445 

19 

1867 

1  4.08 

30  2  sq  mis 

I  848  O7? 

I  23^ 

\£    41,699 
{$  295  525 

690 

12 

1870 

1  600 

2  126  230 

I  2S8 

£    59,105 

a    ^64.  62O 

878 

10 

1910  

1,803 

30  2  sq.  mis. 

3,763,393 

1,532 

72,926 
f$  721,400 

2,030 

4.20  min. 

\£  144,280 

The  statistics  in  the  last  annual  report  show  as  stated 
above  that  the  brigade  attended  2,030  fires,  exclusive  of 
chimney  fires,  which  numbered  1,554.  They  also  rendered 
various  additional  services  amounting  in  the  aggregate  to 
four  hundred  and  forty- four  calls.  These  last  were  ex- 
ceptionally numerous  during  that  year  owing  to  there  being 
many  cases  in  which  assistance  was  given  in  connection 
with  floods  in  Paris,  work  in  which  the  corps  has  always 
especially  distinguished  itself.  Over  and  above  these 
legitimate  calls,  the  department  responded  to  no  less  than 
seven  hundred  and  twenty-seven  false  alarms. 

Before  going  into  a  detailed  description  of  the  equipment 
and  work  of  the  brigade,  it  may  not  be  amiss  to  point  out 
certain  factors  in  connection  with  its  constitution  which 
will  enable  the  lay  reader  the  better  to  appreciate  the  vital 


THE    FRENCH    FIRE-FIGHTER  49 

part  this  force  plays  in  fire  protection  throughout  the  whole 
of  France.  Owing  to  the  number  of  young  men  who  elect 
to  do  their  military  service  in  its  ranks  and  who,  at  the  end 
of  their  allotted  time  pass  out  into  civil  life,  there  are  all 
over  France  many  serving  in  rural  and  provincial  forces 
who  have  thus  acquired  a  considerable  amount  of  useful 
experience  and  whose  influence  must  be  advantageous  in  the 
development  of  local  fire  control.  In  fact,  it  is  worthy  of 
notice  that  the  Paris  fire  force  is  regarded  by  the  authori- 
ties as  something  more  than  a  municipal  institution ;  rather 
is  it  intended  to  meet  national  requirements.  Thus,  as  a 
rule,  a  squad  of  sailors  from  the  French  Navy  is  attached 
for  an  instructional  course  of  six  weeks,  as  it  is  felt  that 
opportunity  should  be  given  to  all  in  Government  employ 
to  acquaint  themselves  with  the  rudiments  of  this  science. 
That  the  constitution  of  the  Paris  Fire  Department  is 
clumsy  cannot  be  denied,  since  it  is  under  military,  police 
and  municipal  control ;  yet  the  introduction  of  military  in- 
fluence may  perhaps  be  regarded  as  beneficial.  A  certain 
prestige  attaches  to  any  form  of  military  control,  and  in 
this  instance  has  caused  this  force  to  be  looked  upon  as 
something  in  the  nature  of  a  corps  d' elite.  Broadly  speak- 
ing, whilst  a  brigade,  which  is  essentially  a  municipal  in- 
stitution, may  develop  a  tendency  towards  loss  of  status  and 
lack  of  discipline  in  its  truest  form,  owing  to  political, 
party  or  labour  influence,  yet  it  seems  the  most  logical  form 
of  organization.  But  at  the  same  time,  fire  control  is  a 
question  of  such  serious  moment  that  some  form  of  govern- 
mental ascendancy  in  the  hands  of  a  competent  central  au- 
thority appears  to  be  beneficial,  if  not  absolutely  necessary. 
At  any  rate,  the  basic  structure  of  a  modern  fire  depart- 
ment should  be  moulded  along  semi-military  lines,  for 
even  as  on  a  battlefield  success  or  failure,  victory  or  defeat, 
may  be  largely  determined  by  the  unquestioning  obedience 
of  all  ranks  to  their  superior  officers,  so  when  fighting 
as  crafty  an  enemy  as  fire,  it  requires  not  only  the  skill  of 
the  commander  but  also  confidence  and  prompt  com- 
pliance with  orders  on  the  part  of  subordinates.  This  can 


50  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

only  be  engendered  by  a  quasi-military  training,  such  as 
it  has  ever  been  the  ambition  of  New  York  Fire  Chiefs 
to  inculcate  into  the  force  under  their  command.  There 
are,  no  doubt,  many  excellent  fire  brigades  controlled 
wholly  by  municipalities,  but  there  are  also  many  bad  and 
inefficient  ones,  which  apparently  satisfy  ignorant  and  in- 
competent local  authorities. 

Fire  prevention  in  Paris  itself  is  practically  looked  upon 
as  an  administrative  precautionary  measure  initiated  and 
applied  by  the  Prefect  of  Police  after  consultation  with 
the  officers  of  the  Paris  fire  brigade,  with  the  municipal 
technical  officers  and  with  such  other  parties  as  have  some 
concern  in  the  matter. 

Amongst  the  general  public,  the  architectural,  engineer- 
ing or  surveying  professions,  and  even  in  governmental 
circles,  little  or  no  interest  is  manifested  in  the  question. 
There  is,  in  fact,  no  body  either  in  Paris  or  France  framed 
along  the  lines  of  the  British  Fire  Prevention  Committee, 
which  is  representative  of  technical  opinion  and  is  formed 
with  the  express  intention  of  formulating  precautionary 
rules.  Of  course,  after  some  great  disaster  an  irresponsible 
clamour  for  precautionary  measures  must  needs  arise,  and 
in  this  particular  Paris  is  no  whit  different  from  New 
York  or  London.  Fanned  by  a  sensation-loving  daily 
press,  blame  is  scattered  broadcast,  quite  irrespective  of 
equity,  and  the  simple  necessities  of  the  situation  are 
swamped  by  the  volume  of  hysterical  and  irrational  vapour- 
ings  poured  forth  by  the  ignorant.  And,  be  it  added,  like 
most  press  sensations,  the  matter  is  speedily  forgotten  and 
nothing  permanent  eventuates.  Such  agitation  arose  after 
the  disaster  at  the  Paris  Charity  Bazaar,  after  the  burning 
of  the  Iroquois  Theatre  in  Chicago,  after  the  destruc- 
tion of  the  Exeter  Theatre  in  England,  but  curiously 
enough  until  very  recently  it  never  resulted  in  any  organized 
effort  on  the  part  of  members  of  the  public  possessing 
technical  knowledge  to  combine  and  assist  the  authorities 
on  the  subject. 

Thus  for  practical  purposes  it  will  be  seen  that  the  Paris 


THE   FRENCH    FIRE-FIGHTER  51 

Prefect  of  Police  embodies  all  the  initiative,  which  should 
be  provided  by  a  French  Bureau  of  Fire  Control.  At  the 
same  time,  however,  he  is  possessed  of  two  great  advan- 
tages, which  enable  him  to  use  his  position  of  amiable  au- 
tocracy to  the  fullest  extent,  namely  the  funds  and  the 
personnel  wherewith  to  investigate  matters,  to  undertake 
tests,  and  to  enforce  by  means  of  administrative  order 
such  safeguards  as  he  may  see  fit  to  demand.  But 
equally,  the  lack  of  public  interest  in  fire  prevention 
places  him  in  a  most  unenviable  predicament,  inasmuch  as 
having  no  private  scientific  society  or  public  commission 
to  take  the  initiative  and  demand  certain  safeguards,  he 
is  necessarily  compelled  to  act  on  his  own  discretion. 

Hence,  were  it  not  that  Mons.  Lepine,  the  world  renowned 
ex-Chief  of  the  Paris  Police,  was  a  man  combining 
the  greatest  strength  of  character  with  an  iron 
tenacity  of  will,  it  is  no  exaggeration  to  say  that 
that  city  would  be  one  of  the  worst  equipped  of  the 
great  modern  capitals  as  far  as  fire  control  is  concerned.  In 
this  connection  must  also  be  noted  the  names  of  Mons. 
Lepine's  most  able  and  competent  colleagues,  Colonel 
Vuilquon  and  Lt.-Colonel  Cordier. 

For  effective  measures  of  fire  protection,  Paris  is  divided 
into  twenty-four  zones,  the  size  of  which  is  governed  by  the 
density  of  the  population.  In  each  of  these  zones  is  a  fire 
station  with  which  the  fire  alarms  are  connected.  Each 
station  is  equipped  with  not  less  than  three  fire-fighting 
appliances ;  a  motor-propelled  steam  pump,  long  ladder  and 
hose  wagon.  In  addition,  the  four  stations  situated  in 
the  most  populous  sections  are  provided  with  an  electro- 
mobile  first  aid  machine,  fitted  with  a  small  electrically- 
driven  pump.  These  machines  are  intended  to  deal  with  a 
fire  in  its  first  stages,  much  in  the  same  way  as  the  chemical 
engines,  common  to  American  fire  practice.  The  number 
of  men  on  duty  at  each  station  consists  of  three  non-com- 
missioned officers  and  twenty-six  corporals  and  firemen. 

In  the  event  of  a  call  the  fire  station  notified  immediately 
sends  out  one  or  two  appliances,  and  at  the  same  time 


52  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

telephones  the  next  nearest  station  to  the  scene  of  the  out- 
break. While  stations  help  each  other  in  sending  on  ap- 
pliances to  calls,  they  do  not  as  a  rule  deplete  their  appara- 
tus to  a  dangerous  degree.  The  pump  and  ladder  are  al- 
ways employed  for  the  defense  of  the  zone  belonging  to 
a  particular  station  and  are  always  the  first  upon  the  scene. 
Fifteen  men  form  the  crew  of  the  motor  engines,  which  also 
carry  three  hose  reels  with  1,968  feet  of  large  hose,  525 
feet  of  small  hose,  smoke  helmet  and  air  bottles,  life  saving 
lines  and  a  ventilator.  These  machines  are  of  forty-five  to 
sixty  horse-power,  and  have  a  centrifugal  pump,  which 
can  deliver  660  gallons  a  minute.  Horse  drawn  steamers 
carry  1,575  feet  of  hose,  short  ladders  and  all  the  neces- 
sary gear  for  coupling  up  with  hydrants.  Whether  shipped 
on  motor  or  horse  vehicles,  the  long  ladder  can  be  extended 
to  a  height  of  sixty-five  and  one-half  feet.  Motor  traction 
is  being  rapidly  introduced,  and  at  the  present  moment 
there  are  in  the  brigade  forty-nine  automobiles,  of  which 
eight  are  electrically  propelled.  In  addition,  seventy-six 
horses  are  hired  by  contract  on  the  understanding  that  they 
are  entirely  at  the  disposal  of  the  department.  The  con- 
tractor furnishes  fodder  and  bedding  for  the  horses  as 
well  as  the  necessary  harness  and  stable  gear,  for  which 
he  receives  eighty-three  cents  per  horse  per  diem.  The 
training  of  these  animals  is  good,  though  being  of  Flemish 
breed  they  are  too  heavy  for  the  dashing  work  accom- 
plished by  many  other  fire  brigades. 

Paris  possesses  seven  reservoirs  which  supply  its  fire  hy- 
drants, the  installation  of  which  was  commenced  in  1872. 
These  latter  now  number  7,726,  and  when  the  system  is 
complete  they  will  be  about  a  hundred  yards  apart.  Their 
nozzle  pressure  varies  from  fifteen  to  seventy- five  pounds, 
according  to  the  height  of  the  reservoirs,  and  usually  the 
average  pressure  is  sufficient  for  working  purposes.  Besides 
these,  there  are  six  hundred  and  ninety-one  hydrants  be- 
longing to  public  buildings  or  private  firms.  The  brigade 
can  be  called  firstly,  by  five  hundred  and  twenty-one  alarm 
boxes  situated  in  the  public  streets ;  secondly,  by  four  hun- 


FRENCH    STEAM    MOTOR  ENGINE. 


THE   FRENCH    FIRE-FIGHTER  53 

dred  and  ninety-five  private  fire  alarms  (theatres,  public 
buildings  and  so  forth),  and  thirdly,  by  the  use  of  the  police 
or  public  telephones.  All  such  alarms  are  of  practically  the 
same  pattern.  They  consist  of  a  square  box  upon  a  pedes- 
tal, instructions  for  operating  being  printed  upon  the  glass 
front  of  the  apparatus.  On  breaking  this  glass,  the  door 
automatically  flies  open,  making  a  contact  which  rings  a 
bell  in  the  fire  station.  Contained  within  the  box  is  a 
telephone  transmitter  for  the  purpose  of  giving  the  station 
the  address  of  the  fire.  When  the  message  is  understood 
a  buzzer  is  sounded  to  signify  that  fact.  The  disadvantage 
of  this  system  is  obvious,  inasmuch  as  there  is  no  check 
upon  false  alarms,  while  in  moments  of  great  emergency 
the  individual  is  only  too  inclined  to  bungle  anything  in 
the  nature  of  a  telephone  message.  In  the  event  of  no 
message  being  received  the  appliances  proceed  to  the  neigh- 
borhood of  the  fire-box. 

Great  attention  is  paid  to  the  physique  of  the  men  form- 
ing the  corps  and  in  addition  to  the  squad  and  company 
drill,  which  constitutes  part  of  their  military  training,  con- 
siderable time  is  devoted  to  gymnastics.  It  may  be  open 
to  question  whether  the  practice  of  what,  for  want 
of  a  better  term,  may  be  called  acrobatic  exercises,  really 
improves  the  stamina  in  the  most  advantageous  manner,  yet 
a  feat  such  as  the  following  possibly  inspires  a  certain 
amount  of  self-confidence. 

The  apparatus  employed  is  called  the  piano.  It  con- 
sists of  a  vertical  timber  structure,  about  fourteen  feet  high, 
comprising  a  number  of  horizontal  boards  separated  by 
a  groove,  to  imitate  the  rustic  grooving  in  classical  archi- 
tecture. The  men  ascend  this  with  their  fingers  alone, 
"jumping"  each  board  with  their  two  hands  simultaneously. 
These  grooves,  which  form  their  only  support,  are  but 
one  and  a  half  inches  deep.  Incidentally,  last  year  the 
men  of  the  brigade  won  the  regimental  cup  for  gym- 
nastics, open  to  the  whole  French  army. 

Regarding  a  fuller  account  of  the  apparatus  in  use  in 
the  Paris  fire  department,  it  need  only  be  said  that  with  the 


54  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

exception  of  some  unimportant  particulars,  the  appliances 
are  much  the  same  as  those  employed  in  the  New  York 
fire  department,  a  detailed  description  of  which  will  be 
found  in  the  chapter  under  that  heading.  It  only  remains 
to  be  emphasized  in  instituting  comparisons  that  the  utility 
of  apparatus  depends  solely  upon  its  suitability  to  its  en- 
vironment, and  the  narrow  streets  of  Paris  offer  an  insuper- 
able obstacle  to  the  giant  appliances  in  use  elsewhere. 

The  Paris  fire  brigade  having  found  that  considerable 
delay  was  caused  by  the  summoning  of  a  building  con- 
tractor when  dangerous  walls,  etc.,  required  attention,  and 
that  the  risk  thus  incurred  by  the  men  during  the  delay 
preceding  his  arrival  was  considerable,  decided  to  pro- 
vide itself  with  its  own  gear  for  dealing  with  dan- 
gerous structures.  This  consists  of  eight  "horse  traps/*  two 
comprising  an  unit  and  manned  by  fifteen  men.  Those  em- 
ployed in  this  particular  squad  are  all  carpenters  or  builders 
by  profession  and  are  thus  supposed  to  be  in  a  position  to 
render  first  aid  to  any  building  in  peril  of  collapse,  with 
facility  and  expedition.  Frankly,  this  feature  in  the  bri- 
gade is  one  also  of  doubtful  value.  True,  the  numbers  al- 
located for  this  particular  service  are  not  excessive,  but 
in  dealing  with  problems  of  a  similar  nature  in  New 
York  the  author  has  found  that  in  such  cases  of  emergency 
it  was  more  satisfactory  to  count  upon  the  services  of  build- 
ing contractors  of  known  standing  than  to  rely  upon  a  small 
subdivision  of  the  fire  corps  itself,  which,  from  the  nature 
of  the  case,  cannot  possibly  possess  the  scientific  and  archi- 
tectural skill  necessary  to  cope  with  such  a  vast  and  in- 
tricate question  as  the  shoring  up  of  a  wall  in  momentary 
danger  of  collapse.  Wrecking  crews  are  employed  in  the 
New  York  fire  department,  but  their  duties  are  very  much 
narrower  than  those  of  their  French  colleagues. 

An  account  of  a  fire  in  Paris,  drawn  from  the  report  of 
the  British  Fire  Prevention  Committee's  Journal,  may  not 
be  without  interest  to  readers,  lay  and  professional  alike. 

The  site  of  the  outbreak  was  a  linoleum  factory  situated 
in  the  Rue  de  Vouille,  a  long,  narrow  street  approached  by 


THE   FRENCH   FIRE-FIGHTER 


55 


thoroughfares  at  either  end,  and  backed  on  one  side  by  tene- 
ment buildings  and  on  the  other  by  a  railway.  Obviously 
the  chief  risk  was  that  the  fire  might  spread  to  the  tene- 
ments, and  hence  the  main  attack  had  to  be  made  from 
either  end.  Seven  motor  pumps  were  brought  into  opera- 
tion, supplying  13  jets,  while  two  more  were  worked  from 
a  hydrant.  The  number  of  officers  and  men  employed  num- 
bered 135.  It  only  remains  to  be  said  that  the  disposition 
of  the  apparatus  as  evidenced  by  the  plan  reproduced  be- 
low was  admirable,  the  officers  in  charge  having  clearly  and 
.quickly  grasped  the  danger  zone,  and  it  is  satisfactory  to 
note  that  the  blaze  was  under  control  within  90  minutes  of 
the  arrival  of  the  first  engine  upon  the  scene. 

LINOLEUM    FACTORY    FIRE 

PARIS     FRANCE  1 


Owing  to  the  part  played  by  the  Prefect  of  Police  in  the 
control  of  the  Paris  fire  brigade  it  is  natural  that  some 
form  of  cooperation  should  exist  between  the  two  depart- 
ments. In  fact  it  is  not  too  much  to  say  that  herein  lies 
a  connection  of  considerable  value.  For  ordinary  small 
fires  the  mobilizing  of  the  police  necessary  to  keep  the 
ground  is  dealt  with  by  the  provisional  police  superinten- 
dent in  whose  area  the  fire  occurs  and  he  can  also  draw 
assistance  from  neighboring  divisions.  In  the  case  of  large 


56  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

fires,  police  headquarters  sends  immediate  aid  from  its 
reserves,  including  if  necessary  republican  guards  and 
strong  cyclist  sections.  The  principle  of  having  a  number 
of  police  ready  for  immediate  turnout  on  bicycles  to  any 
point  in  the  city  is  both  expeditious  and  advantageous  and 
merits  more  than  passing  attention  from  the  authorities 
of  every  large  municipality.  Upon  cooperation  between 
the  police  and  fire  departments  much  depends,  and  it  is  only 
by  constantly  playing  into  each  other's  hands  that  the  for- 
mer can  rightly  judge  how  far  away  a  crowd  must  be  kept 
for  their  own  safety's  sake,  and  in  order  that  the  efforts 
of  the  firemen  may  be  unhindered  by  the  ill-judged  incur- 
sions of  the  curious. 

For  fire  protection  along  the  front  of  the  river  Seine 
there  is  a  special  organization  known  as  the  Brigade  Flu- 
viale  or  River  Police.  This  consists  of  a  chief  inspector, 
four  assistants,  and  thirty-six  policemen,  twelve  of  whom 
are  pilots  and  mechanics.  Not  only  does  this  force  serve 
as  auxiliary  to  the  fire  department,  but  it  is  trained  for 
emergency  work  in  times  of  flood  as  well  as  acting  as  police 
in  the  usually  accepted  sense  of  the  word.  Needless  to 
say,  owing  to  the  tortuous  narrowness  of  the  Seine,  the 
apparatus  in  use  is  small,  but  it  is  serviceable  enough  for 
its  purpose,  and  the  men  in  the  corps  are  in  addition  expert 
life  savers  of  drowning  persons. 

It  is  a  curious  anomaly  of  this  command  that  its  hours 
of  duty  are  only  from  7  a.  m.  till  10  p.  m.,  and  hence  it  is 
practically  unavailable  for  any  night  emergency.  The  au- 
thorities, who  are  responsible  for  this  incongruous  state 
of  affairs,  must  evidently  possess  a  touching  confidence  in 
the  designs  of  le  bon  Dieu,  as,  to  the  ordinary  ideas  of 
the  fire-fighter,  the  hours  of  most  danger  are  precisely  those 
when,  it  is  to  be  supposed,  the  officers  and  men  of  the  Bri- 
gade Fluviale  are  wrapped  in  slumber. 

Salvage  work  in  Paris  is  carried  on  by  a  distinct  section 
of  the  fire  department,  and  is  in  no  way  reliant  upon  any 
outside  or  independent  assistance.  This  whole  question 
of  the  interdependence  of  the  fire  department  upon  a 


FRENCH  "TUBN  OUT." 

PETROL  MOTOR  PUMP  AND  PETROL  MOTOR  LORRIES. 


THE    FRENCH    FIRE-FIGHTER  57 

private  salvage  corps,  and  vice  versa,  receives  careful  con- 
sideration in  another  section  of  this  volume,  but  none  the 
less  it  may  .be  broadly  stated  that  there  are  advantages  at- 
taching to  an  undivided  control  of  both  these  departments, 
and  since  Paris  was  the  first  to  adopt  such  a  measure  a 
short  account  of  its  equipment  for  that  purpose  may  not 
be  without  interest. 

The  Paris  salvage  service  commenced  operations  in  1904 
and  is  intended  to  limit,  as  far  as  possible,  the  damage 
caused  by  water  or  fire  to  all  kinds  of  property.  Since 
salvage  duties  form  part  of  the  ordinary  duties  of  the 
brigade,  instruction  in  this  special  branch  is  given  to  all 
ranks.  Special  appliances  for  the  purpose  are  placed  in 
six  stations,  each  of  which  has  a  certain  number  of  zones 
to  protect,  but  the  appliances  of  one  area  may  be  sent  to 
another  according  to  the  severity  of  the  fire.  Besides  this, 
every  one  of  the  twenty-four  motor  apparatuses  of  the  de- 
partment carries  some  salvage  gear,  so  that  a  proportion 
of  this  work  can  be  accomplished  without  the  presence 
of  the  special  cars. 

Each  salvage  car  is  manned  by  one  non-commissioned 
officer,  two  corporals,  four  firemen  and  a  driver.  On  ar- 
rival at  a  fire  the  man  in  charge  of  the  appliance  takes  his 
orders  from  the  senior  officer  of  the  fire-fighting  force, 
who  employs  his  services  as  he  thinks  best.  Thus,  in  case 
of  emergency,  the  men  of  the  salvage  corps  can  assist  in 
the  fire  work  or  the  men  employed  in  the  fire  work  can 
assist  in  the  salvage.  The  salvage  units  comprise  six  motor 
cars  with  a  wide  radius  of  action,  each  carrying  a  crew 
of  eight  men,  the  whole  being  under  the  charge  of  a  super- 
ior officer  and  each  carrying  no  less  than  fifty  ordinary 
covers,  fifteen  special  covers,  one  special  scaling  ladder,  one 
step  ladder,  one  set  of  draining  gear,  and  a  large  supply  of 
mops,  brooms,  swabs,  sponges,  trays,  small  covers,  ropes, 
lamps,  axes,  carpenter's  tools,  bags  of  sawdust,  telephone 
fittings  and  so  on.  There  is  also  a  reserve  car,  and  in 
addition  to  this  every  motor  pump  carries  two  covers  and 
other  minor  salvage  gear. 


58  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

Towards  this  comprehensive  service  the  insurance  com- 
panies pay  $40,000  per  annum,  and  in  addition  nominate 
two  of  their  officials  to  do  service  if  called  upon  in  a  tech- 
nical or  consultative  capacity. 

Probably  the  Paris  fire  department  is  the  only  one  in  the 
world  which  can  bring  so  effective  a  plant  to  the  seat  of 
operations  so  .quickly  and  with  so  little  delay,  and  broadly 
speaking  it  is  without  doubt  an  advantage  to  have  at  hand 
so  large  and  competent  a  force  upon  which  to  draw  at 
a  moment's  notice.  The  personnel  of  both  fire  brigades 
and  salvage  corps  is,  after  all,  only  human  and  it  is  im- 
possible always  to  avoid  some  friction  between  the  two 
bodies,  when  each  has  a  different  object  in  view  and  is 
naturally  anxious  to  look  after  the  best  interests  of  their 
respective  paymasters.  It  is  in  this  direction  that  Paris 
benefits. 

Generally  speaking  the  Parisian  theatres  can  scarcely  be 
said  to  make  any  special  claim  for  excellence  in  either  archi- 
tectural construction  or  equipment.  Eut  in  this  respect 
they  differ  little  from  those  of  other  countries,  which 
except  in  rare  cases  seldom  come  up  to  the  stand- 
ard of  modern  requirements.  In  the  case  of  Paris, 
the  majority  of  the  buildings  are  old  and  the 
proprietors  have  vested  interests,  necessarily  render- 
ing any  action  on  the  part  of  the  public  author- 
ities a  difficult  and  thankless  undertaking.  Nevertheless, 
a  systematic  effort  may  be  observed  on  all  sides  to  amel- 
iorate the  dangerous  features  in  these  old  buildings  and  to 
ensure  safety  of  the  audiences -as  far  as  is  practicable  under 
existing  conditions.  The  primary  features  of  the  protec- 
tive system  observed  in  Paris  appear  to  be  very  similar 
to  those  in  vogue  in  New  York  and  consist  in  the  installa- 
tion of  a  fire-resisting  curtain,  large  ventilator  openings, 
absence  of  rubbish,  the  non-inflammable  treatment  of  scen- 
ery, constant  inspection  and  lastly  the  organization  of  "fire- 
watches,"  composed  of  regular  firemen,  who  shortly  before 
every  performance  make  a  round  and  test  the  fire  ap- 
pliances, remaining  until  the  conclusion  of  the  entertain- 


THE   FRENCH    FIRE-FIGHTER  59 

ment,  when  the  appliances  are  once  more  put  under  trial. 
Also,  as  in  New  York,  plans  for  new  theatres  are  inspected 
and  reported  upon  by  the  fire  department. 

All  of  this  is  most  satisfactory  and  is  evidence  that  the 
French  authorities  are  keenly  aware  of  the  terrible  fire 
risks  in  theatres  where  even  a  false  alarm  may  result  in 
a  hideous  and  unnecessary  loss  of  life.  But. with  the  Na- 
tional Opera  House  of  Paris  another  tale  has  to  be  told, 
and  it  is  literally  amazing  that  its  equipment  and  con- 
struction should  be  such  as  to  make  even  the  most  unin- 
structed  in  the  peril  of  fire  pause  and  hesitate. 

Granted  that  the  foundations  of  this  historic  pile  were 
laid  as  far  back  as  1863,  yet  owing  to  the  Franco-Prussian 
war  the  building  was  not  really  completed  till  some  twelve 
years  later,  the  opening  taking  place  in  1875.  There  has 
always  been  an  idea  that  buildings  of  a  period  antecedent 
to  our  own  day  of  rush  and  hurry  were  more  substantial 
and  of  better  construction  than  the  jerry  built  shacks  of  the 
modern  real  estate  agent,  who  hides  the  worthlessness  of 
his  wares  under  liberal  coatings  of  gilt  and  gingerbread. 
Yet,  judging  from  the  Paris  Opera  House,  the  architects 
concerned  in  its  erection  must  have  counted  fire  as  one 
of  the  negligible  happenings  of  fate.  No  less  a  sum  than 
$7>5oo,ooo  was  lavished  upon  the  building,  but  apparently 
the  imagination  of  the  gentlemen  responsible  for  its  erec- 
tion only  carried  them  as  far  as  architectural  magnificence, 
and  they  were  blind  as  to  such  matters  of  minor  importance 
as  the  safety  of  audience  and  artists.  But  again  perhaps 
it  is  too  much  to  expect  that  an  architect  of  the  sixties 
in  the  last  century  should  have  realized  that  "panic  bolts" 
to  doors,  rounded  corners,  and  continuous  handrails 
formed  safeguards  for  human  life.  One  might  legitimately 
expect,  however,  that  such  precautions  would  have  pre- 
sented themselves  to  the  minds  of  the  present  day  directors. 

To  quote  from  the  report  of  the  British  Fire  Prevention 
Committee  issued  after  their  visit  to  Paris,  "The  Opera 
House  stage  is  generally  considered  to  be  one  of  the  most 
dangerous,  if  not  the  most  dangerous,  in  Europe.  It  is 


60  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

mainly  of  wood  construction,  supported  in  parts  by  un- 
protected cast  iron  columns.  It  is  a  mass  of  old-fashioned 
windlasses,  pulley  gear  and  a  veritable  forest  of  rope. 
Little  can  be  said,  beyond  that  it  should  be  entirely  gutted 
as  was  the  case  with  the  Royal  Opera  House,  Covent  Gar- 
den, and  that  a  modern  stage  should  be  fitted  in  its  place. 
The  safeguards,  however  carefully  devised,  are  discounted 
by  the  highly  inflammable  and  complex  character  of  the 
stage  equipment." 

It  must  be  clearly  understood  that  this  excerpt  is  given 
with  no  idea  of  disparaging  one  of  the  great  art  centres 
of  the  modern  world,  but  only  with  the  object  of  bringing 
home  to  the  ordinary  citizen  the  fact  that  with  all  the  his- 
tory of  fire  disaster  behind  them  for  their  guidance  those 
responsible  for  the  safety  of  the  public,  unintentionally,  no 
doubt,  even  today  regard  the  subject  apparently  as  not  one 
of  serious  import ! ! !  Further  comment  is  surely  needless. 
Suffice  it  to  say  that  judging  from  official  reports  concern- 
ing the  fire  equipment  of  the  Paris  Opera  House,  it  is  ludi- 
crous, were  it  not  possessed  of  its  tragic  side.  Its  struc- 
tural height  is  nominally  13  stories,  the  fire  protection  of 
which  is  served  by  three  mains,  the  high  pressure  being  nat- 
urally for  the  protection  of  the  upper  part  of  the  building. 
Considering  that  the  maximum  pressure  off  the  mains  is 
only  70  pounds,  it  is  difficult  to  see  how  even  the  tenth  story 
could  be  protected,  let  alone  the  thirteenth. 

The  subject  of  fire  protection  in  department  stores  on  the 
other  hand,  has  for  some  time  past  been  receiving  the  care- 
ful consideration  of  the  Paris  Fire  Bureau,  and  in  this  con- 
nection the  "modus  operandi"  of  the  great  Bon  Marche 
stores  offers  an  example  worthy  of  imitation  by  many  sim- 
ilar establishments  in  big  American  towns.  This  firm 
maintains  a  private  fire  brigade  of  41  men,  who  do  nothing 
else  except  watch  and  fire  duty.  One-third  of  this  number 
sleep  on  the  premises,  while  to  assist  them  is  a  special  staff 
of  1 8  night  watchmen.  A  portion  of  the  regular  sales  staff 
also  is  instructed  in  fire  duties,  being  especially  trained  to 
deal  with  customers  and  others  in  the  case  of  a  fire  panic. 


THE    FRENCH    FIRE-FIGHTER  61 

The  store  possesses  its  own  water  supply  and  sprinklers  are 
fitted  in  all  parts  of  the  building  considered  to  be  particu- 
larly dangerous.  Great  care  is  also  taken  over  the  collec- 
tion of  waste  paper  and  rubbish  generally.  It  is  gathered 
into  sacks  and  removed  to  a  fire  resisting  room  in  the  base- 
ment, which  is  lighted  from  without,  is  supplied  with 
sprinklers  and  possesses  a  self-closing  iron  door.  In  addi- 
tion, all  packing  material  is  stored  in  a  special  apartment, 
and  is  only  issued  as  required.  The  elevator  shafts  are 
taken  above  the  roof,  the  upper  part  of  the  shaft  being 
glazed  with  thin  glass,  the  idea  being  that  in  the  event  of 
fire  the  heat  and  smoke  should  go  well  clear  of  the  building. 
Finally  smoke  helmets  are  kept  ready  for  the  slightest  emer- 
gency, each  being  fitted  with  a  portable  electric  bulb  and  a 
supply  of  oxygen  sufficient  to  last  90  minutes. 

At  different  periods  during  the  last  century,  notably  in 
1851  and  1858,  efforts  were  made  by  the  Government  of 
the  time  to  obtain  some  form  of  provincial  fire  service  on 
national  lines,  whereby  the  responsibility  of  the  different 
local  authorities  might  be  centralized.  These  efforts  met 
with  scant  success,  although  a  number  of  Communes 
formed  fire  brigades  as  sections  of  the  national  civic  guard. 
The  first  modern  decree  on  the  organization  of  French  fire 
brigades  was  signed  by  Marshal  MacMahon  in  1875,  and 
comprised  35  articles  setting  out  the  requirements  and  con- 
ditions of  service  in  great  detail.  Of  course  it  was  in  itself 
only  applicable  to  the  day  of  the  manual  engine,  but  even 
now  it  can  well  rank  as  a  model  to  all  countries  as  a  code 
which  nationalizes  a  necessary  service,  which  is  all  too  eas- 
ily allowed  to  remain  unrecognized  where  the  independence 
of  local  authorities  has  become  a  veritable  fetish  regardless 
of  the  best  interests  of  the  community. 

The  following  are  some  of  the  features  of  the  decree  of 
November,  1903,  which  today  governs  the  formation  of 
Communal  fire  brigades  in  France  and  marks  a  stage  in  the 
development  of  the  old  decree  of  '75.  Fire  Brigades  are 
primarily  formed  to  do  fire  service,  but  may  also  be  called 
upon  to  assist  in  case  of  any  serious  accident  or  catastrophe. 


62  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

If  they  so  desire,  and  with  the  permission  of  the  Home 
Secretary,  they  may  be  armed,  but  under  those  circum- 
stances they  are  not  allowed  to  carry  their  rifles  outside  the 
limits  of  their  own  district.  Fire  brigades  can  only  be 
formed  with  the  sanction  of  the  President  of  the  Depart- 
ment, after  proof  has  been  given  that  sufficient  appliances 
exist  for  the  brigade  to  man,  and  that  means  are  available 
for  the  purchase  of  uniforms  and  the  general  upkeep  of 
the  force  in  an  efficient  condition  for  a  period  of  at  least 
15  years. 

The  general  organization  is  along  strictly  military  lines, 
men  being  enlisted  of  their  own  free  will  for  a  period  of 
not  less  than  five  years.  Officers  are  appointed  by  the 
President  of  the  Republic  on  the  advice  of  the  Prefect  of 
the  District  or  the  Mayor  of  the  Commune.  Their  rank 
is  ex-officio  military. 

But  the  chief  point  in  this  connection  is  the  effort  which 
has  been  made  by  the  various  provincial  fire  departments 
towards  a  common  federation  of  all  brigades,  the  standard- 
ization, so  to  say,  of  the  system  as  a  whole.  The  objects 
of  this  federation  are  to  improve  the  French  fire  service 
generally,  conduct  assemblies,  competitions  and  exhibitions 
with  a  view  to  encouraging  the  ambition  of  various  local 
units  and  to  the  creation  of  a  species  of  local  esprit  de  corps. 
Incidentally  also,  comprised  in  the  scheme  is  a  plan  for 
benefiting  those  who  are  injured  in  the  course  of  duty  and  of 
assisting  their  wives,  widows,  or  families.  At  the  present 
time  this  federation  consists  of  over  104,000  members  and 
there  is  no  reason  why,  if  managed  along  normal  lines  and 
those  of  least  resistance,  i.  e.,  in  conjunction  with  the  gov- 
ernmental authorities,  this  Federation  might  not  prove  of 
inestimable  benefit  to  all  concerned. 

The  competitions  conducted  are  of  peculiar  value,  as  they 
do  not  consist  of  events  which  are  merely  a  matter  of  ath- 
letic celerity,  but  are  rather  founded  upon  a  semi-scientific 
basis.  By  this  means  successful  brigades  may  be  regarded 
as  not  only  occupying  the  position  of  merit  allotted  to  them 
in  any  particular  competition,  but  as  embodying  thereby 


THE   FRENCH   FIRE-FIGHTER  63 

their  actual  standing  in  the  ranks  of  the  provincial  fire  de- 
partment in  France  as  a  whole.  There  are  also  theoretical 
examinations  for  officers,  which  are  taken  separately  and 
of  a  graduated  character,  there  being  five  groups,  A  to  E, 
admission  to  the  higher  group  having  to  be  preceded  by  the 
obtaining  of  honours  in  the  next  lower  group. 

In  fact,  it  is  not  too  much  to  say  that  this  Federation, 
although  in  need  of  modernization  as  regards  some  of  its 
details,  is  generally  beneficial  in  the  highest  degree  to  the 
French  provincial  fire  service,  and  by  engendering  enthusi- 
asm and  a  spirit  of  emulation  has  done  much  to  advance 
the  cause  of  fire-fighting  in  that  country.  Monsieur  Guis- 
net,  its  President,  has  admittedly  a  difficult  body  to  control. 
Political  influences  and  administrative  problems  of  impor- 
tance have  to  be  constantly  overcome  and  adjusted  with  that 
diplomacy  which  alone  can  bring  success  to  any  organiza- 
tion of  such  magnitude.  And,  though,  from  time  to  time 
setbacks  occur  and  attempts  are  made  to  discredit  the  work 
accomplished,  the  fact  remains  that  the  very  genesis  of  such 
a  union  is  a  hopeful  presage  for  the  future.  Were  it  pos- 
sible to  train  the  members  of  all  fire  departments  in  a  coun- 
try along  national  lines  in  a  similar  manner  to  that  in  which 
the  apparatus  of  various  cities  in  the  United  States  has 
been  standardized,  then  without  a  doubt  a  great  step  would 
have  been  taken  forward  in  the  science  of  Fire  Control. 

Admittedly,  of  course,  in  a  vast  country  like  the  United 
States,  such  a  scheme  is  impossible  of  realization,  but  in 
smaller  areas,  such  as  England  and  other  European  coun- 
tries, the  idea  would  certainly  appear  to  merit  consideration. 


CHAPTER  VI 

FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  GERMANY 

As  might  be  expected  by  those  conversant  with  Teuton 
thoroughness,  the  question  of  fire  control  in  Germany  has 
received  the  most  careful  consideration  on  the  part  of  the 
authorities  from  the  Emperor  and  Empress  downwards. 
This  has  resulted  in  the  centralization  of  all  executive 
authority,  which  in  itself  possesses  many  advantages.  In 
Berlin,  all  matters  relating  to  building  construction,  factory 
inspection,  the  storage  of  inflammable  material  and  other 
details  of  a  similar  nature  are  under  the  supervision  of 
the  Berlin  Royal  Police,  with  which  the  Fire  Brigade  is 
incorporated.  The  advantages  of  this  system  are  obvious. 
Thus  a  factory  inspector,  a  superior  officer  of  the  fire 
department,  a  superior  officer  of  the  sanitary  police  and 
the  police  building  surveyor  frequently  work  together,  and 
confusion  as  to  responsibility  or  the  overlapping  of  various 
forms  of  control  is  eliminated. 

Now,  admittedly,  this  system  is  excellent,  but  since  pre- 
vention is  better  than  cure,  great  efforts  are  made  to  instil 
into  the  minds  of  children  at  an  early  age  the  necessity  of 
exercising  great  care  in  the  use  of  matches,  lamps,  candles 
and  open  lights.  Towards  this  end  special  courses  are  ar- 
ranged in  the  public  schools,  whereby  boys  and  girls  are 
taught  by  fable,  picture  or  simple  instruction  the  dangers 
inseparable  from  imprudence  in  the  use  of  the  above  men- 
tioned articles.  These  simple  educational  methods  are  hav- 
ing a  most  marked  effect  on  the  whole  of  the  coming  gen- 
eration in  Germany  and  fatalities  from  burns  amongst 
young  people  have  decreased,  while  their  parents  also  have 

64 


FIRE-FIGHTING   IN   GERMANY  65 

grown  more  cautious.  Naturally  the  full  results  of  this 
teaching  will  not  be  felt  for  another  ten  years,  when  its 
effect  upon  the  incidence  of  fires  should  become  marked. 

Building  construction  in  Germany  generally  is  of  a  solid 
and  substantial  nature,  both  as  regards  business  and  resi- 
dential premises.  The  interiors,  being  subject  to  the  inspec- 
tion of  the  local  building  control  department,  risks  such  as 
those  commonly  met  with  in  tenement  houses  are  avoided. 

The  centralization  of  fire  control  has  also  had  important 
results  as  regards  the  high  standard  of  safety  existing  in 
most  German  theatres.  This  supervision  is  responsible 
for  the  introduction  of  the  specially  heavy  fire  curtain  in 
general  use,  and  for  the  installation  of  a  system  of  stage 
lighting,  which  does  away  with  the  more  dangerous  fea- 
tures of  the  older  methods.  In  this  connection  it  may  be 
noted  that  the  theatre  owners  find  the  police  restrictions  in 
no  way  irksome,  even  though  that  most  unpopular  official 
the  "Censor"  is  also  a  member  of  the  department. 

One  final  feature  of  the  Prussian  brigades  merits  atten- 
tion. The  duty  for  firemen  is  so  arranged  that  after  forty- 
eight  hours  at  the  fire-station,  they  are  entitled  to  twenty- 
four  hours  rest  at  home.  During  their  period  on  watch 
starting  at  8  in  the  morning,  they  are  actively  employed  till 
10:30  P.  M.,  when,  unless  summoned  to  a  fire,  they  may 
sleep  till  6  A.  M.  On  that  day  they  are  relieved  from  2  p.  M. 
till  4  p.  M.  in  order  that  they  may  take  part  in  the  night 
watch  without  undue  fatigue.  There  are  no  married  or 
single  permanent  quarters  for  the  men  at  the  stations,  this 
practice  being  similar  to  that  in  vogue  in  New  York.  As 
regards  the  merits  or  otherwise  of  this  system,  much  may 
be  written  and  the  subject  is  fully  dealt  with  in  a  later 
chapter. 

From  this  brief  resume  it  will  be  gathered  that  German 
fire  control  is  planned  on  severely  official  lines,  which  to 
some  degree  no  doubt  stifles  initiative  on  the  part  of  the 
individual,  but  at  the  same  time  makes  for  that  mechanical 
precision  which  is  responsible  for  the  fire  risks  being  the 
lowest  in  the  world. 


66  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

The  Berlin  fire  brigade  was  organized  in  1851  and  mod- 
ernized in  1875,  when  the  system  of  fire-fighting  units  was 
first  brought  into  operation.  Each  unit  comprised  a  trap, 
a  manual  and  a  water  tank.  Such  was  the  organization 
at  that  time  that,  within  ten  minutes  of  a  fire  being  reported, 
it  was  nominally  possible  to  obtain  the  assistance  of  such 
an  unit  at  any  point  throughout  the  city.  As  the  brigade 
stands  today  it  consists  of  a  headquarters  and  five  di- 
visions, each  division  controlling  five  units.  This  force  has 
to  protect  roughly  an  area  of  15,000  acres  with  27,800 
buildings  and  a  population  of  2,123,000  souls.  The  officers 
of  the  department  consist  of  one  chief,  two  deputy  chiefs, 
five  divisional  officers,  fifteen  assistant  divisional  officers  in 
charge  of  "units' '  and  two  adjutants.  By  way  of  com- 
parison Berlin  has  25  officers  to  a  brigade  of  1,040  of  all 
ranks,  Vienna  7  to  468,  Hamburg  12  to  512,  London 
5  to  1,400,  and  New  York  63  to  4,996.  Berlin  authori- 
ties state  that  it  should  be  borne  in  mind  that  it  is  not  only 
the  superior  officer's  management  of  the  brigade  and  his 
greater  technical  education,  but  his  general  influence  over 
the  policy  of  fire  prevention,  his  skilled  assistance  in  the 
supervision  and  inspection  of  buildings,  and  the  prestige 
which  is  conferred  thereby  upon  fire  control,  which  gives 
the  department  the  standing  it  deserves  as  a  highly  im- 
portant economic  feature  in  municipal  and  national  life. 

Such  recognition  from  so  highly  organized  a  body  as 
the  Berlin  Municipality  makes  the  writer  hopeful  that  be- 
fore long  the  status  of  the  genus  fireman  will  cease  to  be 
regarded  as  less  important  than  that  of  the  soldier  or  the 
sailor  in  the  service  of  his  country. 

The  policy  of  the  Berlin  fire  department,  as  might  be 
expected,  has  been  towards  the  adoption  of  mechanical 
means  of  transport,  and  at  the  present  moment  most  of  the 
units  are  equipped  with  automobile  appliances.  Chief 
amongst  these  may  be  noticed  a  number  of  eighty-foot  ex- 
tension ladders,  chemical  engines,  and  steam  pumps.  There 
are  also  electrically  propelled  break-down  cars  for  dealing 
with  dangerous  structures.  The  loose  gear  carried  is  of  the 


FIRE-FIGHTING   IN   GERMANY  67 

most  extensive  character,  the  men  having  special  instruction 
in  the  use  of  smoke  helmets,  their  familiarity  in  the  em- 
ployment of  the  same  being  second  to  none  in  the. world. 
A  feature  is  made  of  what  may  be  termed  "fire"  tactics, 
or  the  topography  of  districts  in  the  municipal  area,  en- 
abling officers  and  men  to  fight  fires  to  the  best  advantage. 
To  this  end  a  hand  book  is  supplied,  specially  printed  in 
order  to  be  visible  in  a  bad  light,  giving  a  tabular  list  of 
every  thoroughfare  and  every  hydrant  or  source  of  water 
supply  in  the  city.  But  this  compendium  goes  a  step  fur- 
ther, and  in  respect  to  particularly  dangerous  risks  shows 
the  most  advantageous  position  to  be  occupied  by  individual 
engines.  In  the  event  of  the  apparatus  designated  being  at 
work  elsewhere,  its  place  is  taken  by  its  relief. 

Great  attention  is  accorded  to  questions  of  fire  prevention 
by  the  officers  of  the  brigade,  and  systematic  inspections 
are  favoured,  which  are  carried  out  by  the  brigade  indepen- 
dently of,  or  in  conjunction  with,  the  Building  Act  Depart- 
ment, Factories  Department  or  other  sections  of  the  police 
administration.  The  amount  of  inspection  work  done  by 
the  superior  officers  of  the  brigade  in  the  last  few  years 
has  been  enormous,  but  its  effect  has  also  been  very  con- 
siderable in  reducing  the  causes  of  fires.  This  supervision 
includes  theatres  and  public  buildings,  factories,  ware- 
houses, department  stores,  hospitals,  lunatic  asylums  and 
all  buildings  subject  to  special  risks,  such  as  electrical 
power  houses  and  tanks  for  the  storage  of  petrol  and  other 
explosives. 

Those  desiring  to  join  the  corps  as  officers  must  satisfy 
the  authorities  that  they  are  physically  sound,  financially 
stable  and  possessed  of  first-class  higher  school  certificates 
and  military  papers.  They  are  then  eligible  to  become 
ensigns,  but  in  order  to  obtain  commissions  as  officers  they 
then  must  satisfy  the  authorities  that  they  have  passed  the 
final  examination  as  architects  or  civil  engineers  at  a  royal 
technical  college,  or  taken  the  scientific  courses  at  either 
a  naval  or  a  military  engineering  academy.  Further,  they 
must  have  been  either  commissioned  officers  in  the  army  or 


68  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

navy,  or  at  least  hold  rank  in  the  reserve.  In  addition,  they 
are  required  to  place  their  financial  position  clearly  before 
the  Chief  Officer,  to  undertake  not  to  marry  without  the 
Chief's  consent  until  they  have  been  in  the  brigade  at 
least  one  year,  and  to  show  that  they  have  not  only  satis- 
factorily passed  the  ensign's  course  in  the  Berlin  brigade, 
but  also  that  of  an  ensign  in  at  least  one  other  brigade. 
Candidates  must  also  possess  a  thorough  grounding  in 
electrical  work  and  have  a  knowledge  of  the  principles  at- 
tending first  aid.  Finally  they  must  be  of  good  family. 

From  these  details  it  will  be  seen  that  officers  in  the  great 
German  fire  brigades  must  be  men  of  exceptional  ability, 
in  fact,  that  the  profession  is  practically  closed  except  to 
those  who,  holding  commissions  in  the  army  or  navy 
reserve,  are  in  private  life  architects  or  civil  engineers,  or 
belong  to  the  engineering  or  artillery  branches  of  the  army 
or  to  the  torpedo  or  gunnery  branches  of  the  navy.  It 
seems  superfluous  to  state  that  such  credentials  imply  the 
acme  of  hard  work  and  the  height  ot  scientific  efficiency, 
yet  the  writer  must  be  forgiven  for  hazarding  the  statement 
that  the  man  trained  in  the  university  of  hard  knocks  and 
who  has  gained  his  advancement  from  the  ranks  by  shown 
ability  to  meet  the  emergencies  of  his  calling,  is  in  every 
way  his  equal  for  all  practical  purposes.  The  chief  princi- 
ples employed  in  fighting  fires  may  be  briefly  summarized 
thus:  Fight  the  flames  at  close  quarters;  always  have  a 
man  in  reserve  on  each  branch  armed  with  a  life  line  and  an 
axe  for  emergencies,  and  make  use  of  all  apparatus  obtain- 
able irrespective  of  immediate  necessity.  Comment  upon 
these  tactics  is  deferred  till  later  in  this  article.  It  is, 
however,  strictly  enjoined  that  senior  officers  should  not 
expose  themselves  to  any  unnecessary  danger  and  should 
not  under  any  circumstances  penetrate  to  the  heart  of  a  fire 
or  work  inside  buildings  in  danger  of  collapse. 

There  is  a  tendency  observable  to  allow  unimportant 
values  to  be  destroyed  if  it  is  considered  that  their  attack 
by  water  appears  likely  to  cause  greater  damage  than  their 
worth  justifies.  Thus  a  roof  or  the  contents  of  an  attic, 


FIRE-FIGHTING    IN   GERMANY  69 

if  situated  in  a  high-class  building,  are  generally  allowed  to 
burn  out  so  that  the  floors  below  may  not  be  injured  by 
water.  The  rule  of  the  brigade  is  to  work  upwards  rather 
than  downwards  and  a  branch  is  rarely  applied  to  a  fire 
from  surrounding  elevated  positions. 

Regardless  of  the  utility  and  great  convenience  of  me- 
chanically operated  extension  ladders,  the  brigade  continues 
to  give  the  closest  attention  to  hook  ladder  and  life  line 
work.  Every  foreman  and  fireman  must  be  thoroughly 
efficient  in  the  operation  of  these  two  appliances,  failing 
which  he  is  compulsorily  retired,  and  every  fireman  drills 
once  a  week  at  least  with  this  apparatus  during  the  whole 
period  of  his  service. 

Berlin  possesses  nearly  seven  hundred  fire  alarms,  of 
which  two  hundred  are  public  street  alarms,  directions 
thereto  being  fixed  on  every  lamp-post,  pillar-box  and  li- 
censed kiosk  adjacent  to  a  crossing. 

The  regulations  governing  the  department  stores  of 
Berlin  are  peculiarly  comprehensive  with  the  result  that 
they  are  probably  the  best  safeguarded  in  the  world. 
Each  shop  of  any  magnitude  has  its  private  fire  brigade, 
the  watch  room  of  which  is  centrally  situated,  and  appara- 
tus for  any  emergency  is  kept  in  constant  readiness.  Em- 
ployees are  specially  trained  as  to  the  alarms,  bell  signals, 
appliances  and  those  quarters  to  which  they  must  proceed  in 
the  event  of  an  alarm.  Such  signals  are,  (a)  Quarters;  (b) 
Return  to  Duty;  (c)  Clear  Premises.  The  first  signal  can 
be  "pulled"  at  any  one  of  the  private  alarm  points  in  the 
building;  the  second  and  third  by  a  member  of  the  private 
fire  brigade  alone,  and  then  only  from  the  watch  room. 
Upon  the  first  call  sounding,  those  attached  to  the  fire  sec- 
tion proceed  to  the  scene  of  the  outbreak,  which  is  marked 
upon  a  specially  illuminated  location  chart,  while  those 
not  similarly  engaged  are  expected  to  remain  at  their  posts 
under  pain  of  instant  dismissal.  By  this  method,  any- 
thing in  the  nature  of  a  panic  amongst  customers  is  im- 
mediately checked.  At  the  third  call  the  personnel  not 
at  quarters  is  expected  to  pilot  the  clientele  into  the 


70  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

open  by  exits  arranged  according  to  departments.  Mean- 
time all  wagons  and  carriages  have  been  removed  from 
the  courtyards,  areas  and  so  forth  by  a  special  staff  of 
porters,  who  likewise  act  upon  prearranged  signals.  As 
on  board  ship,  test  alarms  are  frequently  made  to  familiar- 
ize both  staff  and  visitors  with  the  mode  of  clearance,  and 
in  this  connection  it  is  of  interest  to  note  that  in  the  event 
of  what  a  police  officer  may  deem  to  be  the  overcrowding 
of  any  store  he  has  the  power  of  stopping  the  entrance 
thereto,  until  such  time  as  the  congestion  has  ceased. 

Theatre  fire  risks  in  Berlin  are  inconsiderable,  thanks  to 
the  modernity  of  the  majority  of  these  structures,  coupled 
with  the  stringency  of  the  building  regulations.  The  nat- 
ural tendency  to  roominess  observable  in  all  public  con- 
struction in  Germany  has  also  beneficially  influenced  the 
internal  designs  of  places  of  amusement  from  a  fire  point 
of  view. 

In  Berlin  proper  there  are  thirty- four  theatres,  music 
halls  and  circus  buildings.  The  daily  fire  watches  number 
thirty-six  foremen  and  one  hundred  and  nine  men,  about 
one-sixth  of  the  brigade,  or  a  full  half  of  the  men  off  duty, 
for  it  must  be  explained  that  the  men  forming  this  con- 
tingent are  voluntarily  recruited  from  those  who,  in  their 
spare  time,  wish  to  make  extra  pay.  It  must,  however, 
be  borne  in  mind  that  this  special  service  is  compulsory 
as  regards  the  brigade,  the  means  of  its  supply  being  left 
to  the  Chief  of  the  department. 

The  problems  connected  with  safety  in  stage  illumina- 
tion appear  to  have  been  solved  in  a  satisfactory  manner. 
Effects  of  flames  and  fire  are  obtained  by  concentrating 
electric  lights  of  considerable  power  and  of  the  required 
colours  upon  pieces  of  silk  which  are  suspended  by  one  end 
and  blown  into  position  with  a  fluttering  movement  by  elec- 
tric fans  and  bellows.  A  duplication  of  the  lighting  system 
is  also  provided  in  most  theatres,  this  being  obviously  of 
extreme  value  in  cases  of  emergency,  when  otherwise  the 
building  would  be  plunged  in  darkness. 

An   example   of   excellence   in.  theatre   construction  is 


FIRE-FIGHTING   IN   GERMANY  71 

afforded  by  the  Schiller  theatre,  with  seating  accommo- 
dation for  1,460  persons,  which  it  is  estimated  can  be 
emptied  in  less  than  one  minute.  There  is  only  one  gallery 
of  small  size,  the  rest  of  the  house  being  given  over  to  what 
corresponds  to  stalls  and  pit  in  European  theatres,  or  in 
American  phraseology,  "orchestra  chairs." 

To  understand  the  situation  of  the  fire  service  in  Ham- 
burg, it  is  necessary  to  appreciate  that  this  is  a  city,  which 
in  the  main  is  a  port  with  enormous  warehouse  values, 
both  within  the  dutiable  area  and  in  the  "free  port"; 
that  it  further  has  a  large  city  or  office  district,  a  retail 
business  section  and  finally  extensive  residential  suburbs 
of  varying  descriptions.  The  business  portion  of  the  city 
is  intersected  by  a  large  number  of  waterways,  which, 
whilst  providing  the  most  valuable  auxiliary  of  an  ample 
and  accessible  water  supply  in  some  of  the  more  dangerous 
districts,  at  the  same  time  create  considerable  difficulty  for 
intercommunication  and  the  concentration  of  the  brigade 
in  force.  Roughly,  the  population  of  Hamburg  amounts 
to  900,000,  the  number  of  buildings  approximating 
31,000. 

The  main  fire  risk  is  naturally  centred  in  the  warehouse 
area  and  more  especially  in  the  "free  port,"  where,  owing 
to  the  shortsightedness  of  those  responsible  to  the  harbour 
board  for  the  dock  equipment,  constructed  in  the  early 
eighties  of  the  last  century,  buildings  were  erected  with 
all  vertical  and  horizontal  metal  supports  entirely  unpro- 
tected and  in  many  cases  formed  of  light  lattice  work 
girders,  which  are  peculiarly  liable  to  collapse  when  sub- 
jected to  great  heat. 

In  the  newer  warehouses  all  this  has  been  remedied  and 
the  improvements  introduced  include  the  use  of  fire  re- 
sisting materials  to  protect  supports,  the  substitution  of 
ordinary  flooring  by  reinforced  concrete  laid  at  such  an 
angle  as  to  insure  the  speedy  and  easy  drainage  of  water 
into  scuppers,  thus  avoiding  unnecessary  damage  therefrom 
in  the  event  of  fire,  and  the  absolute  insulation  of  all  ele- 
vator shafts  and  staircases  from  the  rest  of  the  building. 


72  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

As  to  the  development  of  the  fire  department,  its  history 
is  short  considering  the  lesson  that  should  have  been  learned 
from  the  destructive  conflagration  of  1842.  Not  until 
1869  was  a  professional  brigade  formed,  and  then  it  con- 
sisted only  of  the  ridiculously  inadequate  number  of  forty- 
eight  men  under  a  chief  officer.  This  in  turn  was  assisted 
by  twelve  hundred  volunteers,  the  apparatus  at  their  joint 
command  comprising  four  steam  fire  pumps  and  one  hun- 
dred and  nine  manuals.  In  1878  the  force  was  reconsti- 
tuted and  today  it  consists  of  a  chief  officer,  twelve  as- 
sistants, six  warrant  officers,  forty-three  foremen,  twenty- 
nine  engineers  and  four  hundred  and  twenty-two  firemen, 
or,  together  with  supplementary  staff  such  as  telegraphists 
and  electricians,  a  total  of  nearly  five  hundred  and  fifty 
men.  There  are  ten  fire  stations  and,  as  in  Berlin,  the 
hours  of  duty  are  forty-eight  on  to  twenty- four  off.  Some 
idea  of  the  brigade's  activity  may  be  gleaned  from  the 
fact  that  on  the  yearly  average  it  attends  seventy  fires  of 
first  importance  and  one  thousand  of  lesser  importance, 
while  false  alarms  total  the  huge  number  of  nearly  five 
hundred.  It  would  be  of  interest  to  know  to  what  the 
latter  remarkable  figure  is  attributable. 

The  equipment  of  the  brigade  is  excellent.  Amongst 
other  apparatus  may  be  noticed  twenty-five  steam  fire 
pumps,  seven  chemical  engines,  ten  eighty- foot  extension 
ladders  and  no  less  than  seventeen  large  fire  floats. 

Considering  the  strength  of  its  personnel,  the  area  of  the 
city  and  the  property  to  be  protected,  it  is  no  exaggeration 
to  state  that  few  fire  brigades  can  show  so  large  a  propor- 
tion of  mechanically  equipped  apparatus,  which,  in  itself, 
speaks  volumes  for  the  enterprise  of  the  responsible  authori- 
ties. The  administration  of  the  force  is  in  the  hands  of 
a  special  civic  commission,  formed  on  comparatively  inde- 
pendent lines  and  representing  the  various  interests  at 
stake,  both  financial  and  technical.  It  consists  of  a  Senator 
who  acts  as  Chairman,  a  lawyer  from  the  Senate,  three 
municipal  councillors,  two  municipal  fire  insurance  officials, 
and  an  official  from  the  city's  water  works.  The  cost  of 


FIRE-FIGHTING   IN   GERMANY  73 

the  brigade  amounts  annually  to  $450,000,  of  which  $240,- 
ooo  is  raised  by  a  special  rate  upon  house  property,  $50,000 
by  stamp  duties  on  fire  insurance  policies,  while  the  re- 
mainder is  provided  by  the  authorities  out  of  their  general 
funds. 

An  interesting  feature  is  the  position  occupied  by  the 
chimney  sweep,  that  humble  individual  whose  services  sel- 
dom receive  recognition  of  any  sort  from  the  community, 
yet  upon  whose  thoroughness  depends  the  safety  of  property 
and  persons  untold.  In  Hamburg  the  genus  sweep  is  under 
fire  brigade  control,  and  no  one  can  start  in  that  business 
without  first  passing  a  stringent  examination.  It  is  com- 
pulsory to  have  all  chimneys  cleaned  at  regular  intervals, 
and  in  the  event  of  negligence,  both  sweep  and  proprietor 
of  the  premises  at  fault  are  heavily  fined. 

Generally,  as  regards  fire  risks,  the  Hamburg  municipal- 
ity has  framed  special  by-laws  along  much  the  same  lines  as 
those  existing  in  Berlin,  and  the  protection  thus  afforded 
is  both  ample  and  adequate. 

Though  the  town  of  Hanover  is  small,  its  popula- 
tion amounting  only  to  272,000,  anyone  visiting  its 
brigade  cannot  but  be  struck  by  the  fact  that  it 
is  no  ordinary  organization,  but  rather  one  of  exceptional 
excellence  and  which  on  that  account  can  afford  to  be 
compared  with  any  in  Europe.  Needless  to  say,  any  great 
expenditure  on  apparatus  cannot  be  expected  from  such 
a  small  community,  but  the  district  covered  possesses  a 
dangerous  manufacturing  section  and  includes  some  fac- 
tories of  great  size.  Hence,  to  meet  the  needs  of  the  situa- 
tion it  has  been  necessary  to  provide  a  department  which,  if 
confined  to  its  regular  duties,  would  scarcely  find  sufficient 
employment.  But  an  economical  solution  of  the  problem 
was  found  by  according  to  the  brigade  and  its  officers 
additional  municipal  functions  other  than  those  of  the  fire 
service,  and  to  this  end  both  officers  and  men  have  been 
trained  for  other  special  duties.  At  the  same  time  it  was 
wisely  determined  that  the  apparatus,  though  limited  in 
quantity  should  be  the  best  obtainable  in  quality,  and  that 


74  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

the  salaries  of  all  concerned  should  be  upon  as  liberal  a 
scale  as  possible. 

Thus,  the  brigade  acts  as  the  ambulance  department  of 
Hanover,  in  itself  a  work  of  considerable  utility.  Unlike 
other  departments,  which  possess  a  first-aid  section,  in  this 
case  the  corps  undertakes  the  transport  of  infectious  cases 
and  the  like  to  hospital,  which  though  open  naturally  to 
serious  objection  on  account  of  the  possibility  of  the  spread 
of  disease  through  this  agency,  is  none  the  less  a  service 
that  in  a  small  town  can  be  carried  on  with  the  minimum 
of  risk,  when  every  man  concerned  is  under  the  closest 
medical  supervision.  In  addition,  the  chief  officer  of  this 
fire  department  is  also,  ipso  facto,  the  administrative  head 
of  the  municipal  scavenging  and  dust  destructor  service, 
which  incidentally  has  considerable  bearing  upon  fire  pre- 
vention. Though  no  doubt  a  certain  sympathy  must  be 
felt  for  scientific  fire-fighters,  who  are  expected  to  employ 
a  portion  of  their  time  in  such  uncongenial  occupations  as 
taking  diphtheria  patients  to  hospital  or  acting  as  scaven- 
gers, yet  as  the  municipality  urge,  they  can  only  afford  to 
pay  for  a  brigade  in  which  the  rank  and  file  can  be  other- 
wise employed,  and  it  would  seem  better  to  have  a  fire  force 
at  even  that  price  than  possess  none  at  all.  And  it  must  also 
be  remembered  that  Germany  is  a  free  country  and  that 
there  is  no  compulsion  to  serve,  at  any  rate  in  the  Hanover 
fire  department. 

The  present  constitution  of  the  brigade  is  as  follows: 
four  superior  officers,  an  inspector  of  telegraphs,  a  superin- 
tendent of  ambulance  work,  seventeen  foremen,  eighty-six 
firemen,  six  telegraph  clerks,  and  twelve  coachmen,  or  one 
hundred  and  twenty-seven  of  all  ranks.  There  are  three 
fire  stations  and  approximately  13,800  buildings  to  be  pro- 
tected. The  principal  equipment  consists  of  three  steam 
motor-propelled  pumps,  three  eighty- foot  extension  lad- 
ders, four  motor  chemical  engines  and  seven  traps.  These 
latter  are  extremely  useful  appliances,  carrying  hook  and 
scaling  ladders,  a  quantity  of  hose,  life  lines  and  all  those 
minor  appliances  that  at  fires  often  spell  so  much  at  the 


FIRE-FIGHTING   IN   GERMANY  75 

commencement  of  an  outbreak.  Three  motor  ambulances 
also  merit  mention,  and  all  municipal  telegraphy  and  elec- 
tric wiring  for  bell  and  signal  purposes  being  under  the 
brigade's  control,  there  are  special  motor  trolleys  for  that 
branch  of  the  department.  The  corps  is  equipped  with 
forty-five  street  alarm  call  boxes  in  public  thoroughfares, 
and  twenty-two  in  private  or  municipal  buildings.  On  the 
average,  the  annual  number  of  fires  attended  amounts  to 
two  hundred  and  eighty-two,  of  which  twenty-one  rank  as 
of  major  importance,  twenty-eight  are  medium  and  seventy- 
eight  are  chimney  fires.  The  ambulance  section  roughly 
answers  4,500  calls  per  annum  of  which  no  less  than  six 
hundred  may  be  docketed  as  infectious.  Hence  it  speaks 
volumes  for  the  medical  precautions  adopted  that  rarely,  if 
ever,  a  fireman  is  temporarily  incapacitated  or  permanently 
injured  from  this  duty. 

As  indicated,  though  a  mere  enumeration  of  personnel 
scarcely  serves  to  emphasize  sufficiently  the  point,  this  small 
force  is  no  ordinary  one  and  under  its  former  fire  chief, 
Herr  Reichel,  now  in  command  in  Berlin,  it  can  lay  claim 
to  having  taken  the  initiative  in  motor  traction  as  applied 
to  fire  engines,  certainly  in  Germany,  if  not  in  the  entire 
world. 

Today  there  would  be  nothing  in  a  fire  brigade  ordering 
self-propelled  appliances,  rather  would  they  be  remarkable 
if  they  did  not.  But  it  is  worthy  of  more  than  passing 
comment  that  as  long  ago  as  1901,  Herr  Reichel  was  able 
to  exhibit  at  the  Berlin  International  Fire  Exhibition,  a 
complete  fire  service  unit  for  a  district  station,  comprising 
a  motor  steam  fire  engine,  an  automobile  trap,  and  a  self- 
propelled  chemical  engine,  which,  working  as  an  unit,  time 
has  proved  to  be  eminently  economical.  The  unit  in  ques- 
tion, after  an  experimental  trial  of  three  months,  entered 
the  regular  service  of  the  Hanover  force  and  is  still  doing 
excellent  work  even  today. 

As  regards  water  supply  this  is  ample,  the  pressure  off 
the  mains  averaging  forty-five  pounds. 

Before  closing  the  brief  account  of  this  most  enterpris- 


76  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

ing  small  brigade  a  few  words  must  be  added  con- 
cerning the  actual  methods  employed  in  the  ambulance 
service.  On  an  alarm  sounding  an  ambulance  starts  away 
at  once  in  charge  of  a  coachman  and  four  firemen.  In 
infectious  cases  the  men  have  instructions  to  handle  the 
sufferer  as  little  as  possible,  and  at  the  end  of  the  journey 
both  attendants  and  coach  are  thoroughly  fumigated.  This 
system  is  also  used  for  the  removal  of  dangerous  persons 
and  lunatics,  thus  constituting  a  valuable  auxiliary  to  the 
local  police,  hospitals,  and  lunatic  asylums.  Finally,  this 
branch  of  the  brigade  during  the  summer  months  is  charged 
with  the  manufacture  of  ice,  which  is  sold  at  cost  price 
to  those  in  a  position  to  pay  for  it,  but  is  supplied  free 
to  the  poor  in  case  of  illness  or  other  necessity. 

In  fact,  the  town  of  Hanover  can  lay  claim  to  the  proud 
boast  that  first  of  all  the  cities  in  the  world  it  has  recognized 
the  science  of  fire-fighting  to  the  extent  of  founding  a  lec- 
tureship on  "Fire  Control,"  the  chair  of  which  is  located 
at  the  Royal  Technical  College  of  Hanover,  which  now 
ranks  as  a  national  university.  The  first  lecturer,  "decent," 
was  that  Herr  Reichel,  of  whom  mention  has  already  been 
made. 

From  a  perusal  of  the  foregoing  pages  the  reader  will 
have  recognized  that  the  outstanding  feature  of  German 
fire  brigade  organization,  as  evidenced  by  that  of  its  most 
important  centres,  is  the  large  part  played  by  a  semi-military 
handling  of  the  subject,  coupled  with  that  thoroughness  of 
technique  and  design,  which  is  distinctive  of  the  Teuton 
character.  But  this  must  not  be  taken  to  mean  that  in  the 
opinion  of  the  author,  nothing  is  beyond  criticism  or  above 
discussion.  In  the  first  place,  as  must  always  happen  in 
countries  where  class  distinctions  are  rigid  and  the  private 
soldier  cannot  in  all  truth  be  said  to  carry  the  Field  Mar- 
shal's baton  in  his  pocket,  there  is  that  tendency  to  assume 
that  mere  theoretical  training  is  sufficient  to  equip  an  in- 
dividual satisfactorily  to  fight  so  insidious  an  enemy  as 
"fire."  It  is  the  humble  opinion  of  the  writer  that  this 
theory  is  erroneous.  The  individual  may  be  provided  with 


FIRE-FIGHTING   IN   GERMANY  77 

the  most  extensive  scientific  panoply  of  degrees  and  di- 
plomas regarding  the  arithmetic  progression  of  combustion 
under  certain  conditions,  he  may  be  able  to  work  out  by 
trigonometry  the  angle  of  a  water  delivery  from  a  pump 
to  a  window  many  feet  from  the  ground,  and  he  may  be 
an  expert  at  assessing  the  nozzle  pressure  necessary  suc- 
cessfully to  circumvent  an  outbreak,  before  the  latter  has 
reached  serious  proportions.  This  in  theory.  But  what  of 
the  practice.  Every  sailor  knows  that  it  is  a  matter  of  no 
great  difficulty  to  ascertain  in  a  class  room  the  position  of 
an  imaginary  ship  upon  an  imaginary  ocean,  with  the  assist- 
ance of  an  imaginary  sextant  and  the  ordinary  aids  to  navi- 
gation. Everything  is  at  hand  to  make  his  task  an  easy 
one,  even  to  that  of  such  adjuncts  as  light,  warmth  and  sta- 
bility. But  place  that  same  individual  on  board  a  real  ship 
upon  a  real  ocean,  in  a  small  ill-lighted  deck-house,  with  a 
chart  pinned  down  on  a  swaying,  uneven  surface,  and  ask 
him  to  work  out  the  same  set  of  figures  or  the  same  prob- 
lem, and  he  may  be  forgiven  if  he  fails  hopelessly.  So  is  it 
in  all  appertaining  to  this  science  of  fire-fighting.  With  all 
the  technical  knowledge  in  the  world  and  nothing  else 
behind  it,  it  would  be  ludicrous  to  expect  any  person  suc- 
cessfully to  cope  with  so  crafty  an  enemy  as  the  flames, 
or  at  any  rate  as  competently  to  obtain  their  mastery  as 
one  trained  actually  upon  the  field  of  experience. 

In  this  connection,  also,  without  wishing  to  appear  hyper- 
critical, it  seems  doubtful  whether  the  Berlin  practice  of 
preventing  senior  officers  from  taking  an  active  part  in  the 
actual  fire-fighting  is  either  wise  or  desirable.  True,  a  gen- 
eral on  a  battlefield  is  expected  to  direct  operations  from  a 
point  of  as  much  safety  as  is  consistent  with  his  duties,  but 
in  the  case  of  a  fire  chief,  it  should  be  remembered  that  each 
fire  must  be  fought  on  its  particular  merits.  There  has 
been  no  survey  of  the  ground  previously,  there  has  been 
no  active  intelligence  department  to  warn  the  attacking 
force  of  what  particular  line  of  development  may  be  ex- 
pected; all  that  the  fire  chief  knows  is  the  bare  fact  that 
an  outbreak  has  occurred  at  such  and  such  a  place  and 


78  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

that  the  locality  is  a  dangerous  one  or  vice  versa.  Hence, 
in  order  to  satisfy  himself  as  to  the  true  state  of  affairs 
it  is  imperative  that  he  should  judge  for  himself  by  per- 
sonal observation  as  to  the  possible  chances  of  a  spread 
of  the  flames  and  the  best  method  to  fight  the  same. 

Further,  another  feature  of  the  Berlin  fire  department 
seems  to  demand  special  criticism,  namely  the  custom  of 
allowing  a  fire  to  burn  itself  out  if  situated  at  the  top  of 
a  building,  the  other  contents  of  which  would  be  dam- 
aged by  water  attack.  No  doubt  this  may  be  essayed  and 
essayed  safely  in  a  fire-proof  building,  separated  from  its 
neighbors  by  a  certain  distance,  and  when  a  sufficient  por- 
tion of  the  fire  department  is  concentrated  on  the  scene 
and  can  remain  there  for  any  emergency.  But  time  must 
be  allowed  for  the  said  fire  to  burn  out,  and  the  force  de- 
tailed to  watch  it  may  meantime  be  urgently  wanted  else- 
where. To  leave  it  un watched  would,  of  course,  be  suicidal. 
Hence,  such  tactics  must  be  regarded  as  hazardous,  and 
much  better  were  it  that  the  insurance  companies  should 
suffer  for  a  minimum  of  loss  than  be  obliged  to  meet  the 
demands  of  a  really  serious  conflagration,  the  possibility 
of  which  is  always  present  under  such  conditions.  These 
are  a  few  of  the  thoughts  which  arise  in  the  mind  of  any 
trained  practical  fire-fighter.  It  is  the  theoretician  who  sees 
in  the  vicarious  strategy  outlined  above  a  better  method  of 
overcoming  a  wily  enemy  than  the  old  style  of  coming  to 
grips  at  once  and  fighting  to  a  finish. 

For  the  rest,  the  German  fire  departments  have  much  to 
recommend  them  as  models  to  the  world,  not  the  least 
important  factor  in  their  organization  being  the  prestige 
attaching  to  fire-fighting  as  a  science,  and  to  the  honour- 
able position  occupied  by  officers  and  men  in  the  estimation 
of  the  public. 


CHAPTER  VII 

FIRE  DEPARTMENTS  OF  MIDDLE  EUROPE — AUSTRO-HUNGARY, 
SWITZERLAND  AND  ITALY 

THE  dominant  feature  of  the  Austrian  fire  department 
is  the  high  degree  of  excellence  attained  by  purely  voluntary 
corps,  which  owe  their  development  in  a  great  measure  to 
the  system  of  federation  introduced  as  long  ago  as  1869. 
This  organization  was  extended  in  1885  under  the  name  of 
the  Austrian  Fire  Brigade  Board,  comprising  delegates 
from  the  provincial  brigades  under  a  president  and  two 
vice-presidents.  In  1900  this  Board  received  recognition 
from  the  Crown,  became  known  as  the  Austrian  Imperial 
Fire  Brigades  Association  and  obtained  an  annual  subven- 
tion from  the  Government.  Today  this  federation  num- 
bers more  than  9,500  brigades  representing  practically  the 
entire  Austrian  service.  Some  idea  of  the  magnitude  of 
this  force  can  be  gathered  from  the  amount  of  the  appa- 
ratus involved,  namely,  over  200  steam  fire  engines  and 
over  13,000  manuals.  From  time  to  time  this  Association 
appoints  technical  commissions  to  examine  all  questions 
connected  with  the  scientific  aspect  of  fire  control.  Fur- 
ther, courses  of  study  are  specially  designed  to  familiarize 
officers  and  non-commissioned  officers  with  the  theoretical 
problems  involved  in  fire-fighting.  Particular  attention  is 
directed  to  the  inspection  of  local  brigades,  and  efforts  are 
made  to  secure  uniformity  in  their  organization.  Accord- 
ing to  the  principles  adopted  by  the  Imperial  Association, 
every  volunteer  corps  must  be  composed  of  two  sections, 
each  properly  equipped  for  fire  extinguishing  and  life  sav- 
ing work.  Thus  these  brigades  can  be  used  not  only  for 

79 


8o  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

fighting  fires,  but  may  equally  be  called  upon  to  render 
assistance  in  the  event  of  accidents  of  any  nature.  Such  a 
system  is  no  doubt  of  public  benefit  in  rural  communities, 
but  would  clearly  be  impracticable  in  large  towns  unless  all 
municipal  forces  were  under  the  control  of  the  same  execu- 
tive. 

A  matter  of  enormous  importance  in  the  economics 
of  the  Austrian  fire  service  is  the  fact  that  the  law  of  the 
country  requires  all  insurance  corporations  and  companies, 
trading  on  Austrian  territory,  to  contribute  about  two  per 
cent,  of  their  total  gross  premium  income  on  the  risk  taken 
in  Austrian  territory,  for  the  specific  purpose  of  assisting 
in  the  upkeep  of  the  fire  brigades  and  towards  the  firemen's 
widows  and  orphans'  fund.  This  law  affects  all  com- 
panies, irrespective  of  their  nationality.  It  must  be  here 
emphasized  that  the  foregoing  remarks  apply  only  to  Aus- 
trian territory  proper,  Hungary  possessing  a  distinct  and 
separate  organization  of  its  own.  The  Hungarian  Fire 
Brigades  Union  consists  of  1,325  units  out  of  a  total  of 
nearly  9,000  corps,  sufficient  evidence  of  the  fact  that  it  has 
not  won  the  same  popular  interest.  Its  executive  serves 
as  the  board  of  experts,  to  which  the  Minister  of  the  In- 
terior applies  when  technical  questions  have  to  be 
dealt  with.  An  annual  course  of  instruction  is  ar- 
ranged by  the  Union  lasting  three  weeks,  and  no 
officer  apparently  can  attain  chief  officer's  rank  in  a  Union 
brigade  without  having  passed  this  test  and  obtained  a 
certificate.  As  to  the  Union's  general  work,  it  has  syste- 
matized all  questions  of  uniform  and  badges  of  rank,  it 
has  created  a  long-service  medal  and  has  issued  clear 
instructions  for  competitions  and  a  guide  for  the 
testing  of  fire  extinguishing  appliances.  Doubtless  this 
list  of  ordinances  is  possessed  of  local  value,  but  to  the 
scientific  mind  it  seems  strange  that  questions  of  technical 
import  have  not  received  more  attention  from  such  an  asso- 
ciation. True,  a  uniform  coupling  is  used  throughout  the 
country,  and  there  is  a  standard  manual  fire  engine,  but  as 
non-union  brigades  possess  these  appliances,  it  may  be  pre- 


FIRE  DEPARTMENTS  OF  MIDDLE  EUROPE     81 

sumed  that  their  adoption  has  merely  been  a  matter  of  con- 
venience. 

The  city  of  Vienna,  as  regards  fire  protection,  is  depend- 
ent upon  a  municipally  paid  professional  brigade  assisted 
by  volunteer  suburban  corps  under  the  control  of  brigade 
headquarters.  Eight  officers,  five  civilians  and  475  men 
form  the  personnel  of  the  former,  located  in  15  stations, 
with  two  special  watches  in  public  buildings.  The  officers 
consist  of  the  Commandant,  a  Chief  Inspector  and  six  sub- 
ordinates, all  of  whom  are  housed  at  the  central  fire  station. 
Of  the  rank  and  file,  8  are  drill  sergeants,  40  telegraph 
clerks,  53  foremen,  22  engineers,  while  248  comprise  the 
actual  fire-fighting  force.  In  addition  24  telegraph  clerks 
and  engineers  are  detailed  for  duty  with  the  volunteer 
suburban  brigades,  the  remainder  of  the  force,  numbering 
78,  being  coachmen. 

Numerically  such  a  fighting  strength  for  the  fire  protec- 
tion of  a  city  of  the  size  of  Vienna  would  seem  hopelessly 
inadequate,  but  in  this  connection  a  word  must  be  said  for 
the  building  regulations  enforced  by  the  municipality,  which 
greatly  diminish  fire  risks  owing  to  their  far-sighted  effi- 
cacy. 

The  apparatus  of  the  brigade  is  adequate  to  its  needs, 
perhaps  the  most  distinctive  feature  being  the  chemical  en- 
gines, in  connection  with  which  are  operated  80 foot  me- 
chanical extension  ladders.  Their  crew  consists  of  an  offi- 
cer and  five  men,  additional  gear  carried  comprising  3  hook 
ladders,  a  hose  reel,  a  hand  engine,  a  smoke  helmet,  a 
jumping  sheet,  an  ambulance  chest,  toolbox,  torches,  and  so 
forth.  On  duty  the  firemen  wear  uniforms  of  white  can- 
vas, which  scarcely  seem  appropriate,  considering  the  na- 
ture of  the  work  they  are  called  upon  to  do.  Generally 
speaking,  it  would  appear  from  the  data  obtainable  that 
there  is  a  tendency  to  overload  the  men  with  gear,  and  that 
some  of  the  heavier  apparatus  is  insufficiently  supplied  with 
personnel  effectively  to  operate  it. 

The  Suburban  Volunteer  brigades  turn  out  to  fires  in 
their  own  districts,  but  may  be  called  upon  to  assist  in  the 


82  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

event  of  a  serious  outbreak  in  the  city.  Their  equipment  is 
very  similar  to  the  municipal  brigade  and,  since  the  men 
are  volunteers,  and  as  such  enthusiasts,  they  take  a  pride 
in  keeping  as  upi-to-date  as  possible  in  all  matters  pertaining 
to  their  apparatus. 

Vienna  is  particularly  fortunate  as  regards  its  water  sup- 
ply, which  is  ample  for  the  requirements  of  the  brigade. 
There  are  3,620  hydrants,  with  an  average  nozzle-pressure 
of  from  75  to  90  pounds,  so  that  the  use  of  the 
steam  fire  engine  is  rarely  necessary,  doing  away  with  much 
of  the  cumbersome  apparatus  found  in  other  continental 
cities. 

The  Ho f burg  Theatre  is  generally  considered  one  of  the 
finest  in  the  world,  but  judging  from  the  following  report 
from  the  Journal  of  the  British  Fire  Prevention  Committee 
it  would  seem  that,  in  common  with  most  other  similar 
structures  in  the  European  capitals,  desire  for  architectural 
magnificence  has  outweighed  the  less  artistic  essentials 
upon  which  its  fire  safety  depends.  "It  is  subject  to  a 
considerable  risk  of  fire  through  antiquated  electric  installa- 
tion. The  switch  room  on  the  stage  is  one  of  the  most 
dangerous  the  members  of  the  party  have  seen.  Besides 
being  dangerous  electrically,  it  is  highly  inflammable,  and 
lined  with  match-boarding.  There  was  much  unnecessary 
match-boarding  and  woodwork  in  the  theatre.  It  appeared 
curious  that  a  building  such  as  the  Vienna  Hofburg  The- 
atre, on  which  such  an  immense  sum  of  money  had  been 
spent,  should  contain  defects  so  palpable  that  they  were 
inexcusable.  The  staircase  from  the  stage  to  the  mezzanine 
was  very  antiquated,  and  capable  of  much  improvement. 
The  exits,  however,  seemed  ample."  The  theatre  has  its 
own  fire  staff,  and  below  the  gridiron  is  fitted  with  a  species 
of  sprinkler  operated  from  the  stage  level.  Beyond  this 
precaution,  apparently  nothing  is  done  to  ensure  the  safety 
of  the  flies  or  the  scenery  dock.  There  is,  of  course,  an 
iron  curtain  between  the  stage  and  the  auditorium,  though 
the  front  of  the  house  is  seemingly  left  unprotected.  At 
all  theatres  in  Vienna  an  evening  watch  is  posted  and  the 


FIRE  DEPARTMENTS  OF  MIDDLE  EUROPE     83 

fire  apparatus  is  examined  prior  to,  and  after,  each  per- 
formance. 

Though  an  Ambulance  Service  can  scarcely  be  consid- 
ered an  integral  portion  of  a  fire  department,  yet  in  Vienna 
the  two  organizations  are  so  combined  as  to  be  almost  in- 
separable. Formed  consequent  upon  the  Ring  Theatre  fire 
of  1871  by  Baron  Mundi,  the  Vienna  Volunteer  Ambulance 
Society  has  as  its  object  the  creation  of  a  civil  ambulance 
service  to  render  aid  on  occasions  of  great  emergency,  such 
as  conflagrations,  railway  accidents,  floods  and  the  like.  It 
consists  of  three  departments,  the  first  detailed  for  fire  ser- 
vice, the  second  for  flood  service,  and  the  third  for  first-aid 
service.  The  fire  service  comprises  several  of  the  Vienna 
suburban  volunteer  fire  brigades,  four  hundred  of  the  men 
of  these  brigades  being  organized  to  do  duty  for  this  pur- 
pose outside  the  metropolitan  area,  if  necessary.  The  flood 
service  comprises  149  men  from  the  leading  rowing  clubs, 
and  has  its  own  pumps,  pontoons  and  food  distributing 
vehicles,  thus  acting  to  some  degree  as  a  substitute  for  a 
regular  river  fire  department.  The  first-aid  service  com- 
prises 14  paid  doctors,  325  voluntary  doctors,  60  medical 
students,  3  ambulance  superintendents,  12  ambulance  order- 
lies and  6  coachmen.  In  the  administrative  building  of  the 
society  there  are  waiting-rooms,  duty  rooms,  an  accident 
ward,  operating  theatre  and  watchhouse,  the  latter  specially 
equipped  with  telephones  for  communication  with  the  fire 
department,  police  and  other  authorities.  For  railway  acci- 
dents the  radius  of  action  is  300  miles,  while  in  the  event 
of  a  conflagration  or  great  disaster  the  society  can  count 
immediately  upon  the  services  of  50  doctors  and  200  volun- 
teer ambulance  orderlies  equipped  with  26  ambulances,  250 
stretchers  and  a  large  quantity  of  minor  appliances.  This 
forms  a  valuable  auxiliary  to  the  fire  department,  which 
can  always  rely  upon  its  immediate  cooperation. 

Some  consideration  must  now  be  given  to  the  Buda  Pesth 
fire  brigade,  which  is 'likewise  a  combination  of  professional 
and  volunteer  forces.  The  staff  of  the  professional  brigade 
consists  of  a  Chief  Officer,  an  Inspector,  a  Senior  and  two 


84  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

Junior  Adjutants,  23  warrant  officers,  3  engineers,  15  fore- 
men, 175  firemen  and  sufficient  coachmen  to  drive  the 
horsed  appliances.  Amongst  the  apparatus  may  be  noticed 
1 6  fire  engines,  22  manual  engines,  and  a  supply  of  hose 
wagons  and  extension  ladders.  Headquarters  and  sub- 
stations are  connected  by  private  telephones.  There  are 
149  fire  alarms  distributed  throughout  the  city,  which  num- 
ber seems  inadequate.  Since  the  publication  of  these  data, 
it  is  understood  that  arrangements  have  been  made  to  re- 
equip  the  force,  but  necessarily  this  operation  will  cover 
some  time.  On  the  other  hand,  the  Volunteer  Brigade  is  a 
model  of  its  kind,  possesses  an  independent  constitution  and 
comprises  some  80  members.  It  is  capitalized  to  the  extent 
of  $40,000,  and  receives  in  addition  a  special  annual  sub- 
sidy from  the  municipality.  Though  legally  an  entirely 
self-governing  institution  the  corps  voluntarily  puts  itself 
under  the  command  of  the  Chief  Officer  of  the  municipal 
brigade.  Their  equipment  is  housed  together,  since  that 
operated  by  the  volunteers  is  bought  and  maintained  by  the 
city.  The  professional  head  of  the  department  has  at  his 
daily  disposal  ten  men,  who  do  duty  every  night  and  render 
service  if  called  upon.  Owing  to  the  fact  that  the  fire  risks 
in  Buda  Pesth  are  regarded  as  considerable,  it  has  been 
found  necessary  to  augment  these  two  services  by  essen- 
tially private  organizations  of  factory  fire  brigades.  These 
number  44  all  told,  total  1,600  men,  and  have  a  mutual 
understanding  whereby  the  members  of  any  one  factory 
assist  others  in  case  of  need. 

In  criticizing  the  fire  department  and  equipment  of  a 
town  such  as  this,  it  must  be  remembered  that  it  would  be 
expecting  too  much  to  demand  the  finished  organization  and 
up-to-date  resources  of  a  city  such  as  New  York.  When  it 
is  considered  that  only  latterly  has  fire  control  come  to  be 
regarded  as  worthy  of  more  than  passing  attention,  it 
speaks  volumes  for  the  enterprise  of  a  municipality  situated 
so  far  east  and  peopled  by  a  race  so  temperamental 
as  the  Hungarians,  to  have  evolved  so  efficient  a  ser- 
vice. This  comment  is  made  necessary  because,  since  com- 


FIRE  DEPARTMENTS  OF  MIDDLE  EUROPE     85 

parisons  are  odious  but  constantly  instituted,  it  may  be 
imagined  that  such  a  statement  of  facts  implies  discredit. 

The  following  condensed  account  of  the  burning  of  the 
"Parisian  Store"  in  Buda  Pesth  on  August  24,  1903, 
though  ancient  history,  still  possesses  considerable  interest. 
On  the  ground  and  mezzanine  floors  of  the  building  were 
business  premises,  while  the  other  four  stories  comprising 
the  house  were  given  over  to  residential  apartments.  An 
open  courtyard  in  the  centre  of  the  block  provided  light 
and  air  to  the  residential  portion.  The  proprietor  of  the 
business  premises,  wishing  to  increase  his  accommodation, 
had  rented  the  mezzanine  floor  of  the  two  adjoining  blocks, 
cutting  large  openings  in  the  party  wall.  In  addition  he 
roofed  over  the  open  court  at  the  floor  level  above  the 
mezzanine,  closing  the  doors  on  the  ground  and  mezzanine 
floors  leading  to  both  front  and  back  staircases  and  block- 
ing the  windows  facing  the  business  premises.  The  store 
premises  were  stocked  with  drygoods. 

At  about  7  P.M.  smoke  was  seen  issuing  through  the  par- 
tition separating  the  business  from  the  main  street  entrance 
of  the  residential  portion.  It  is  alleged  that  the  outbreak 
was  due  to  an  electric  short  circuit,  but  more  probably  it 
originated  among  some  of  the  inflammable  goods  in  the 
store.  The  fire  spread  rapidly,  volumes  of  smoke  cutting 
off  the  egress  of  the  tenants.  Shortly  the  whole  of  the 
business  portion  of  the  building  was  involved,  and  the 
flames  entered  the  residential  part  through  the  glass  roof 
over  the  central  court.  Thus  the  tenants  had  no  other 
means  of  escape  except  the  windows  overlooking  the  street, 
the  door  of  the  back  staircase  having  meantime  become 
involved  in  the  general  conflagration.  Before  the  arrival 
of  the  brigade  three  persons  had  jumped  from  windows 
and  lost  their  lives.  By  the  time  that  the  brigade  had  ar- 
rived upon  the  scene  the  fire  had  obtained  so  firm  a  hold 
that  the  fire  escapes  and  jumping  sheets  could  not  be  em- 
ployed to  proper  advantage,  with  the  result  that  26  other 
persons  jumped,  of  whom  9  lost  their  lives,  16  were  seri- 
ously injured  and  one  was  unharmed.  Owing  to  the  open- 


86  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

ings  in  the  party  walls  of  the  mezzanine,  the  fire  spread  to 
the  adjoining  block,  narrowly  avoiding  a  very  much  larger 
area  of  damage.  The  moral  of  such  a  calamity  is  obvious. 
When  tenements  are  over  business  premises,  every  con- 
structional means  should  be  adopted  to  ensure  the  safety 
of  the  residents.  In  this  connection  the  municipality  itself 
should  see  to  it  that  in  all  new  buildings  attention  is  paid 
to  fire  risks,  and  also  that  no  trade  or  business  of  a  danger- 
ous nature  should  be  carried  on  in  any  inhabited  dwelling. 
This  is  of  especial  importance  in  these  days,  when  the  em- 
ployment of  celluloid  in  various  forms  has  come  into  such 
common  use. 

Since  the  development  of  Rome  from  1870  onwards, 
combustible  materials  in  building  construction  have  been 
practically  prohibited.  In  buildings  prior  to  1870  wood 
could  be  primarily  found  only  in  roofs  and  floors.  The 
wooden  staircase  in  Rome  is  an  exception,  and  in  structures 
both  old  and  new,  a  substantial  vaulted  fire-resisting  floor 
separates  the  ground  floor  from  all  other  parts  of  the  build- 
ing. Thus  all  shops  on  the  street  level  are  effectively  iso- 
lated from  tenements  above.  The  number  of  factories  and 
workshops  in  Rome  is  small  and  is  limited  to  a  few  steam 
mills;  consequently  up  to  1894  the  fire  brigade  was  com- 
posed of  municipal  workers,  who  took  it  in  turns  to  man 
the  stations  and  to  act  as  theatre  watchmen.  Since  that 
year  the  force  has  been  reorganized,  being  200  strong,  of 
whom  140  are  firemen,  50  belong  to  a  special  reserve  and 
ten  are  officers.  The  municipality  pays  the  entire  expenses 
of  the  brigade,  amounting  to  about  $12,500  per  annum. 

There  are  in  all  seven  stations  connected  by  telephonic 
communication,  and  an  alarm  system  of  roughly  a  hundred 
points.  As  regards  water  supply,  there  are  350  hydrants 
exclusively  for  fire  purposes,  together  with  some  3,000 
others,  which  can  be  brought  into  use  if  necessary.  It  is 
estimated  that  the  number  of  fires  per  annum  amount  ap- 
proximately to  270,  of  which  on  an  average  216  may  be 
listed  as  "petty,"  the  damage  incurred  being  in  each  case 
under  $200.  Since  the  population  of  Rome  aggregates  half 


FIRE  DEPARTMENTS  OF  MIDDLE  EUROPE     87 

a  million,  it  will  be  seen  that  the  incidence  of  fires  per 
thousand  inhabitants  works  out  at  only  1.8.  The  total 
average  fire  damage  annually  reaches  $50,000.  In  case  of 
necessity,  following  the  usual  continental  procedure,  the 
brigade  renders  assistance  at  disasters  other  than  fires.  As 
far  as  apparatus  is  concerned  there  is  little  to  demand 
attention,  the  equipment  for  the  most  part  being  somewhat 
antiquated. 

No  better  illustration  of  the  divergency  in  Italian  tem- 
perament could  be  exemplified  than  the  organization  of  the 
Milan  fire  department  and  that  of  Rome.  The  northern 
capital  is  keenly  alive  to  fire  risks,  and  with  that  enterprise 
which  distinguishes  the  Piedmontese  it  has  left  no  stone 
unturned  to  keep  its  equipment  at  a  high  level  of  excellence. 
By  the  decree  of  the  Viceroy,  Eugene  Napoleon,  the  brigade 
was  first  organized  in  1811,  and  consisted  of  2  officers  and 
8 1  men,  who  were  exempt  from  military  service,  but  were 
under  military  discipline.  This  jurisdiction  was  not  re- 
moved till  1859.  A  great  fire,  which  occurred  in  1871, 
shewed  the  necessity  for  the  augmentation  of  the  force, 
and  in  the  following  year  100  members  were  added,  divided 
into  two  sections  of  50  firemen  each.  The  first  was  formed 
of  regular  firemen  posted  at  the  stations;  the  second  of 
workmen  who  were  obliged  to  undergo  a  periodical  in- 
struction, attend  fires,  and  undertake  patrol  duty  in  the 
theatres. 

In  1905  the  corps  was  modernized,  and  the  present  per- 
sonnel comprises  eight  superior  officers  with  240  rank  and 
file.  The  superintendence  of  the  equipment  is  delegated 
to  a  chief  engineer  assisted  by  a  motor  expert. 

Included  amongst  the  appliances  are  86  manuals  and  9 
steam  fire  engines,  5  motor-driven  pumps  and  9  extension 
ladders.  The  use  of  the  chemical  engine  is  general,  and 
a  large  supply  of  "smoke  helmets  is  included  in  the  appa- 
ratus. There  are  seven  stations  with  direct  telephonic  com- 
munication, each  being  specially  connected  with  the  munici- 
pal offices,  the  police,  the  military  and  the  theatres.  On  an 
average  per  annum  there  are  785  alarms,  of  which  16  are 


88  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

serious,  52  of  less  importance  and  659  of  slight  conse- 
quence. False  alarms  are  inconsiderable.  In  addition  the 
brigade  renders  first  aid,  being  provided  with  special  am- 
bulances for  that  purpose,  while  it  assists  also  in  the  de- 
molishing of  dangerous  structures. 

The  Scala  Theatre,  Milan,  is  world  renowned  on  account 
of  its  vast  size,  being  third  in  seating  capacity  of  all  such 
structures.  It  is  subject  to  the  supervision  of  the  theatre 
committee,  but  being  a  building  of  considerable  antiquity 
and  very  inferior  in  fabric  it  can  only  serve  as  an  example 
of  how  a  theatre  may  escape  destruction  by  fire,  regardless 
of  the  fact  that  the  most  elementary  rules  of  constructional 
equipment  have  been  disregarded.  Hence  great  credit  must 
be  accorded  to  the  Theatre  Committee  in  its  efforts  to  ob- 
tain small  improvements,  whilst  not  having  the  required 
powers  for  the  drastic  action  necessary.  The  hydrants  in 
the  building  have  a  nozzle  pressure  of  about  40  pounds  at 
the  stage  level,  and  are  so  arranged  that  the  upper  floors 
may  be  served  through  their  being  coupled  to  steam  fire 
pumps. 

Another  feature  in  Milan  is  also  worthy  of  note.  As  in 
many  continental  countries  the  Government  of  Italy  has 
taken  over  control  of  all  pawnshops,  and  has  organized 
them  into  a  State  Department,  known  as  the  Mont  de 
Piete,  which  comprises,  besides  the  actual  loan  office,  a 
credit  bank  and  a  safe  deposit.  For  this  purpose  the  Mu- 
nicipality of  Milan  has  constructed  a  special  fireproof  build- 
ing, which  of  its  kind  is  a  model.  Of  reinforced  concrete, 
the  floors  of  the  galleries  are  of  iron  with  cages  of  steel 
wire  for  the  storage  of  goods  in  pawn.  There  is  a  special 
watch  station  on  the  top  of  the  highest  portion  of  the  build- 
ing, connected  direct  to  fire  headquarters,  and  a  special 
patrol  is  kept  constantly  on  duty.  Incidentally  there  are 
some  60,000  depositors  per  annum,  and  nearly  65  per  cent, 
of  the  goods  pawned  are  under  the  value  of  $4;  the  total 
value  of  pledges  in  one  year  reach  the  enormous  sum  of 
$2,300,000,  a  sufficient  indication  of  the  use  made  of  this 
institution.  By  a  Government  regulation,  when  a  reserve 


FIRE  DEPARTMENTS  OF  MIDDLE  EUROPE     89 

fund  of  $50,000  has  been  accumulated,  the  profit  goes  to 
municipal  charities,  so  that  the  money  of  the  needy  may  be 
said  to  supply  in  part  their  own  necessities. 

The  Florentine  fire  department  is  the  best  volunteer  or- 
ganization of  the  kind  which  can  be  found  in  Italy.  It  is 
commanded  by  a  military  officer,  specially  selected  from 
the  army  for  this  purpose,  and  paid  by  the  municipality, 
which  also  provides  the  equipment  and  fire  station.  Other- 
wise it  is  officered  and  manned  by  volunteers,  numbering 
about  130  officers  and  men.  Their  apparatus  consists  of 
4  steam  fire  engines,  a  salvage  and  dangerous  structure 
trap,  which  is  in  itself  something  of  a  novelty,  and  three 
extension  ladders.  Florence  has  about  160  fires  annually. 
Since  the  water  supply  is  not  altogether  satisfactory,  and 
hydrants  are  not  to  be  found  in  all  streets,  special  engines 
are  used  capable  of  drawing  water  at  a  distance  of  over  300 
feet.  When  the  pressure  is  too  small,  pumps  are  used  in 
tandem.  The  average  power  from  the  mains  is  about  40 
pounds  to  the  square  inch,  which  is  sufficient  for  the  ser- 
vices it  is  called  upon  to  perform. 

Needless  to  say,  the  part  played  by  the  fire  brigade  in 
Venice  is  one  which,  in  some  of  its  aspects,  is  unique.  Nat- 
urally in  a  city  with  canals  as  highroads,  the  question  of 
transportation  differs  materially  from  that  in  other  towns. 
The  corps  forms  an  integral  portion  of  the  "Vigili,"  or 
municipal  watchmen,  who  preserve  order  and  generally 
render  assistance  to  the  community. 

Thus  in  the  event  of  a  serious  conflagration,  the  police 
section  of  the  "Vigili"  augment  the  fire  section  and  vice 
versa.  Each  division  has  a  commander  and  its  own  staff, 
both  being  under  the  supervision  of  a  military  officer  spe- 
cially appointed  by  the  municipality.  The  rank  and  file  of 
the  fire  department  number  71,  and  are  distributed  in  6 
companies  of  varying  strength.  Their  apparatus  is  nat- 
urally designed  for  water  transport,  and  consists  of  one 
large  modern  petrol  propelled  float,  one  large  old  type 
steam  float,  two  35-foot  steam  launches,  and  several  small 
petrol  motor  boats,  which  are  used  as  first-aid  appliances. 


90  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

Manual  engines,  ladders,  and  so  forth,  are  carried  in  a 
large  fleet  of  swift  gondolas.  Fire  escape  work  is  done 
with  Roman  ladders,  which  are  usually  planted  on  two 
gondolas  slung  together  barge  form,  or,  if  the  depth  of  the 
canal  permits,  the  lower  length  is  bedded  in  the  canal  bot- 
tom. 

Owing  to  the  substantial  character  of  the  older  buildings, 
and  also  of  the  modern  residential  and  business  structures, 
the  fire  hazards  are  primarily  those  in  the  dock  area,  with 
its  numerous  sheds  and  small  warehouses  of  a  highly  in- 
flammable character.  There  are  also  some  large  industrial 
works  in  which  the  fire  risks  are  equally  great.  The  num- 
ber of  fires  annually  is  comparatively  small,  averaging  125, 
and  it  is  rare  that  more  than  one  or  two  can  be  classified 
as  serious.  Roughly  the  fire  loss  per  annum  is  $50,000,  or 
about  $400  per  fire. 

Generally  speaking,  a  considerable  awakening  of  interest 
in  questions  relating  to  fire  control  is  manifest  in  Italy, 
King  Victor  being  something  of  an  enthusiast  in  that  re- 
spect. It  is  a  mistake,  however,  to  suppose,  as  is  advanced 
by  some  technical  writers,  that  Italy  is  more  immune  from 
the  fire  peril  than  other  countries,  because  of  its  climate. 
Facts  speak  for  themselves,  and  the  fire  risks  in  New  York 
are  nearly  as  great  in  mid-summer  as  in  the  depths  of  win- 
ter. 

Italy's  geographical  neighbour,  Switzerland,  possesses 
a  fire  service  run  practically  on  national  lines,  that  of  Zurich 
supplying  an  excellent  example.  This  is  a  compulsory  mili- 
tia brigade  under  the  control  of  the  Chief  of  Police,  who  is 
also  Chairman  of  a  committee  of  nine  charged  with  the 
protection  of  the  town  from  fire.  Zurich  covers  about 
12,000  acres,  1,500  of  which  are  built  over  with  some 
15,000  houses,  the  whole  of  the  buildings  being  subject  to 
the  local  building  regulations  and  the  "State  Insurance 
Association's"  rules  in  which  they  are  compulsorily  in- 
sured. Every  male  inhabitant  of  the  town  is  compelled  to 
do  some  service  for  the  prevention  of,  or  protection  against, 
fire,  from  the  age  of  20  to  50,  which  duty  may  be  fulfilled 


FIRE  DEPARTMENTS  OF  MIDDLE  EUROPE     91 

by  active  service  or,  in  the  case  of  an  able-bodied  citizen, 
who  is  found  unsuitable  for  such  service,  by  the  payment 
of  a  tax.  This  impost  is  fixed  upon  the  basis  of  his  in- 
come, though  certain  citizens  are,  ipso  facto,  exempt  from 
active  fire  duty.  The  fire  brigade  comprises  15  companies 
of  1 20  men  each,  the  officers  being  appointed  by  the  Mu- 
nicipal Committee.  Only  men,  who  are  personally  enthu- 
siastic, and  who  are  possessed  of  good  physique,  are  se- 
lected, and  are  preferably  recruited  from  the  building  or 
allied  trades.  Absence  from  drills  is  regarded  as  a  serious 
offense,  being  punishable  by  a  fine  alternatively  with  im- 
prisonment. The  city  insures  the  whole  of  the  brigade 
against  accidents  and  illness  with  the  Swiss  Fire  Brigade 
Union,  and  also  provides  a  fund  for  families  in  cases  of 
death  of  firemen  on  duty. 

Each  company  has  three  sections:  a  fire  service  section, 
a  life  saving  section  and  a  police  section,  the  latter  being 
utilized  for  keeping  the  ground  free  and  attending  to  sal- 
vage. Further,  each  company  is  supposed,  as  a  rule,  to  be 
able  to  deal  with  any  fire  in  its  own  district,  and  it  is  only 
in  the  case  of  a  very  serious  outbreak  that  additional  com- 
panies are  requested.  Thus  there  is  a  system  of  decentral- 
ization and  independence  of  action  in  this  force  not  often 
met  with  elsewhere,  which,  applied  to  a  large  area,  would 
be  unworkable.  Firemen  receive  20  cents  for  each  drill  of 
two  hours,  while  for  fires  they  receive  40  cents  for  two 
hours  and  ten  cents  for  each  additional  hour.  This  would 
appear  to  provide  an  incentive  to  unscrupulous  fire- 
men, though  probably  such  are  non-existent  in  Zurich, 
to  prolong  the  life  of  a  fire  in  accordance  with  the 
demands  of  their  purse.  The  official  regulations  also 
state  that  refreshments  are  provided,  though  in  this  con- 
nection it  is  not  clear  whether  before,  during,  or  after  a 
blaze!  !  ! 

An  extensive  telephone  service  is  at  the  disposal  of  the 
brigade,  but  since  all  the  personnel  are  not  connected  with 
the  system,  the  alarm  is  mainly  given  by  horns  blown  by 
those  who  have  telephones  in  their  homes.  One  may  be 


92  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

forgiven  for  imagining  that  under  such  circumstances  this 
number  cannot  be  very  great.  By  law,  the  telephone  service 
is  free  for  alarms,  and  is  at  the  disposal  of  anyone  for  that 
purpose. 

A  company  comprises  i  chief  officer,  i  second  officer,  i 
doctor,  2  ambulance  men  and  6  orderlies  as  staff  in  charge, 
supplemented  by:  for  the  fire  service,  i  lieutenant  and  40 
men,  for  the  life-saving  section,  the  same,  and  for  the  police 
section,  i  lieutenant  and  20  men.  The  full  force  of  all 
companies  is  about  2,300  of  all  ranks.  The  apparatus  is 
simple  in  nature,  consisting  mainly  of  hose  reels  and  ladder 
trucks,  housed  in  corrugated  iron  sheds  to  which  the  fire- 
men all  have  keys.  This  simplicity  of  equipment  is  only 
made  possible  by  an  excellent  service  of  hydrants,  of  which 
the  city  has  2,895,  with  a  nozzle-pressure  of  from  60  to  120 
pounds.  This  represents  a  great  advantage  over  the  pres- 
sures to  be  found  in  most  other  continental  cities,  and  is 
attributable  to  the  fact  that  the  water  supply  comes  from 
the  mountains. 

The  fire  control  service  is  organized  on  most  elaborate 
lines,  owing  to  the  fact  that  the  building  regulations  and 
state  fire  insurance  are  practically  in  the  same  hands.  All 
fresh  construction  and  even  alteration  is  subject  to  a  Can- 
tonial  Building  Act,  and  it  is  the  duty  of  the  building  de- 
partment to  carry  out  the  law.  Three  members  of  the 
Town  Council  form  a  committee  to  grant  or  refuse  licenses 
for  new  buildings  or  alterations  to  old  ones,  and  in  this  duty 
they  are  assisted  by  technical  advisers,  namely,  the  city 
architect  and  a  number  of  architectural  assistants  and  sur- 
veyors. In  the  case  of  a  license  being  refused  appeal  may 
be  made  to  the  Town  Council  in  plenum,  and  finally  to 
the  Cantonial  government.  Amongst  the  regulations  is  the 
stringent  inspection  and  cleanliness  of  chimneys,  and  the 
officials  are,  ipso  facto,  liable  to  prosecution  in  case  of  an 
outbreak  of  fire,  if  it  can  be  shown  that  they  were  guilty 
of  neglecting  their  duty. 

Such  regulations  speak  volumes  for  the  intelligence  of 
the  city  fathers  of  this  Swiss  town,  and  are  evidence  of  the 


FIRE  DEPARTMENTS  OF  MIDDLE  EUROPE     93 

realization  by  the  municipality  of  the  necessity  for  efficient 
fire  control. 

The  principles  underlying  the  organization  of  the  Lu- 
cerne fire  department  are  very  similar  to  those  governing 
Zurich,  with  the  difference  that  there  is  not  so  much  decen- 
tralization, and  that  the  force  is  more  homogeneous  in  char- 
acter. It  possesses,  however,  one  feature  which  is  probably 
unique.  Attached  to  the  life-saving  section  of  the  corps  is 
a  technical  division  composed  of  experts  drawn  from  such 
industrial  undertakings  as  the  Municipal  Electrical  Supply 
Company,  the  Telephone  Company,  the  Tramway  Com- 
pany, the  gasworks  and  the  waterworks.  The  officer  in 
command  of  this  section  is  a  civil  engineer  on  the  regular 
staff  of  the  brigade,  whose  duty  it  is  to  advise  the  com- 
manding officer  on  all  technical  points. 

All  these  divisions  and  sub-divisions  must  tend  toward 
some  confusion  in  practice,  but  at  the  same  time  the  fire 
chief  has  ever  at  his  disposal  a  fund  of  highly  scientific 
information  upon  which  to  draw  in  case  of  need. 

It  may  be  emphasized,  however,  that  the  actual  exigen- 
cies of  fire-fighting  under  the  conditions  common  to  fires 
of  any  magnitude  can  not  permit  of  any  fire  chief  accept- 
ing or  soliciting  advice  from  any  quarter.  He  must  be 
sufficient  unto  himself  in  the  moment  of  action,  though 
naturally  he  may  have  imbibed  much  useful  knowledge  from 
such  sources  during  official  discussions.  Anything  that  in 
the  smallest  degree  tends  to  diminish  the  initiative  of  the 
fire  chief  must  be  disadvantageous  to  a  proper  grasp  of  his 
complex  duties,  and  it  is  to  be  feared  in  this  case  that  in  a 
multitude  of  counsel  is  confusion.  This  is  penned  in  no 
critical  spirit,  but  rather  as  embodying  the  experience  of  a 
practiced  fire  fighter. 


CHAPTER  VIII 

THE  TRADE  OF  ARSON" 

IT  is  calculated  that  incendiarism  for  the  purpose  of 
obtaining  insurance  money  is  responsible  for  the  destruc- 
tion annually  in  New  York  alone  of  four  million  dollars' 
worth  of  property.  This  represents  a  daily  loss  of  $10,000, 
or  more  than  the  yearly  pay  of  a  Major  General  in  the 
United  States  Army.  Needless  to  say  this  criminal  practice 
is  not  confined  to  New  York,  every  large  town  in  America 
suffers  in  a  greater  or  less  degree  from  the  attentions  of 
the  genus  "firebug."  Now  for  this  state  of  affairs  it  is 
impossible  wholly  to  acquit  the  great  insurance  companies, 
for  latterly  it  has  become  usual  to  accept  fire  risks  of  con- 
siderable value  without  instituting  the  searching  en- 
quiries, which  are  a  sine  qua  non  for  the  completion  of 
business  in  Europe  and  elsewhere.  Of  course,  cases  of 
arson  do  now  and  again  occur  in  any  community,  but  that 
a  gang  of  criminals  should  find  it  both  easy  and  profitable 
to  carry  on  incendiarism  as  a  regular  calling  seems  almost 
incredible  and  bespeaks  a  species  of  toleration  which  is 
scarcely  to  the  credit  of  the  community.  Quite  apart  from 
danger  to  public  property  and  unnecessary  loss  to  insurance 
companies  stands  out  another  point  in  the  most  vivid  of 
relief,  namely  the  dire  peril  to  human  life,  of  which  these 
fiends  take  no  account. 

This  murderous  trade  appears  to  be  peculiarly  lucrative, 
and  judging  from  statistics  it  offers  little  risk  to  the  perpe- 
trators of  discovery  and  punishment.  In  addition,  also, 
it  requires  no  stock  in  trade,  such  for  instance  as  is  necessary 
to  the  forger,  it  demands  no  courage  such  as  characterizes 

94 


THE   TRADE   OF  ARSON  95 

and  lends  an  air  of  romance  to  the  train  bandit  and  most 
assuredly  it  makes  no  great  call  upon  mental  ingenuity 
such  as  marks  the  operations  of  the  bank  swindler.  Hence 
the  "firebug"  may  without  doubt  be  classed  as  belonging 
to  the  lowest  and  most  degraded  portion  of  the  criminal 
population.  Not  that  necessarily  the  votaries  of  this  occu- 
pation lack  a  certain  amount  of  spurious  education.  On 
the  contrary  they  are  drawn  from  all  grades  of  society, 
the  less  educated  being  as  a  rule  the  tools  employed  to  do 
the  actual  burning.  In  this  category  must  also  be  included 
those  misguided  individuals,  who  finding  themselves  in  fi- 
nancial difficulties  regard  a  fire  as  the  simplest  method  of 
retrieving  their  shattered  fortunes.  Frequently  such  people 
employ  the  services  of  the  professional  firebug  and  share 
the  proceeds.  Thus  "fire  making"  has  become  a  regularly 
accepted  calling,  which  it  is  most  urgent  should  be  stamped 
out  in  its  entirety  once  and  for  always. 

Were  additional  evidence  of  the  accuracy  of  these  state- 
ments needed  it  is  surely  supplied  by  the  following  curious 
circumstances.  During  the  spring,  fires  in  the  fur  trade  are 
prevalent,  while  hat  and  cap  fires  usually  occur  in  the  sum- 
mer. From  September  to  December  it  is  peculiar  that  the 
ready  made  cloak  and  suit  trade  suffers  severely,  while  any 
change  of  fashion  in  millinery  or  feathers  is  invariably 
followed  by  a  corresponding  destruction  of  old  stock 
through  fire.  The  advent  of  the  motor  car  heralded  the 
burning  out  of  hundreds  of  stables,  and  now  the  influx  of 
cheap  automobiles  into  the  market  appears  to  approach  to 
over  production  since  garage  outbreaks  have  become  prac- 
tically incessant.  All  of  which  is,  of  course,  only  circum- 
stantial evidence,  though  it  may  be  aptly  remarked  that  in 
some  countries  this  alone  is  sufficient  to  bring  a  man  to  the 
gallows. 

Insurance  officials  argue  that,  in  order  to  collect  insurance 
on  anything  alleged  to  have  been  destroyed,  "proof  of  loss" 
must  be  submitted.  But  for  the  professional  firebug  this 
matter  presents  no  difficulty.  His  system  of  operation  in- 
cludes a  full  knowledge  of  whence  he  can  obtain  ample 


96  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

supplies  of  false  invoices,  forged  affidavits  and  perjured 
testimony.  In  some  cases,  goods  and  furniture  which  have 
done  duty  in  other  fires  are  previously  placed  on  the  prem- 
ises in  order  that  all  necessary  proof  of  loss  may  be  at 
hand. 

This  business  of  incendiarism  is  responsible  to  a  large 
degree  for  that  undesirable  class  of  persons  known  techni- 
cally as  "public  fire  adjusters."  It  is  the  self-imposed  duty 
of  these  functionaries  immediately  on  the  occurrence  of  a 
fire  in  any  part  of  the  city,  to  hasten  to  the  scene  and  get 
into  touch  with  the  insured  person  affected  by  the  outbreak. 
The  keenest  competition  exists  amongst  them,  and  cases 
have  been  known  when  as  many  as  ten  were  seeking  the 
same  insured  party  at  the  same  time,  and  one  of  them 
succeeded  in  obtaining  his  client  by  virtually  kidnapping 
him  and  carrying  him  away  in  an  automobile.  Ostensibly 
these  "adjusters"  play  the  part  of  philanthropists,  actually 
they  are  influenced  solely  by  motives  of  keen  self  interest. 
Instances  have  been  known  where  such  men  have  obtained 
as  many  as  five  separate  contracts  from  an  insured  person 
immediately  after  a  fire,  each  contract  promising  ten  per 
cent  of  the  insurance  money  to  the  adjuster;  the  assured 
being  thus  compelled  on  settlement  to  give  up  fully  fifty 
per  cent  of  his  claim  against  the  insurance  companies.  Al- 
though there  are,  no  doubt,  many  honest  agents,  it  is 
desirable  to  point  out  some  of  the  questionable  methods 
employed,  especially  in  cases  where  arson  charges  are  in- 
volved, thus  giving  direct  encouragement  to  incendiarism. 
It  is  safe  to  hazard  that  if  many  incendiaries  had  to  appear 
personally  in  the  offices  of  insurance  companies  or  of  their 
accredited  agents,  and  could  not  conceal  themselves  behind 
the  crooked  adjuster,  the  actual  facts  connected  with  many 
questionable  fires  would  be  revealed. 

The  most  pernicious  practice  imaginable  is  that  of  the 
agent,  who  when  he  solicits  business  amongst  known  fire- 
bugs has  a  distinct  understanding  with  them  that  fires 
are  to  follow  the  issue  of  policies.  This  incriminates  these 
gentlemen  equally  with  their  clients  and  they  most  richly 


THE   TRADE   OF   ARSON  97 

deserve  a  long  term  of  imprisonment.  Others  again  in- 
struct policy  holders  how  to  "pad"  their  claims  against 
companies  without  any  appreciable  risk  of  discovery. 
Hence,  human  nature  being  admittedly  frail,  it  is  not  un- 
common for  an  individual  to  realize  that  by  this  means  he 
can  secure  a  maximum  financial  return  for  a  minimum  out- 
lay. 

The  writer  would  here  point  out  that  incendiarism  does 
not  only  affect  the  social  fabric  of  the  community,  but  multi- 
plies to  an  inconceivable  degree  the  labours  of  the  fire-fight- 
ing force.  For  generally  speaking  the  incendiary  lays  his  fire 
in  such  a  way  that  it  is  of  an  obstinate  character  and  only 
too  likely  to  involve  its  surroundings.  Also,  it  is  deplor- 
able to  relate  that  women  are  among  the  most  expert 
in  this  nefarious  trade;  many  an  innocent  looking  curtain 
and  gas-jet  blaze,  or  clothes-closet  fire  is  the  skilfully 
executed  work  of  the  female  incendiary.  In  this  connec- 
tion the  following  may  be  taken  as  illustrative  of  the  lengths 
to  which  women  will  go  in  their  efforts  to  make  money 
by  this  means.  During  the  night  of  August  I5th,  1910, 
a  motorman  on  a  trolley  car  passing  down  Third  Avenue, 
Brooklyn,  noticed  a  red  glare  of  a  fire  in  one  of  the  houses 
on  the  route.  With  commendable  curiosity  he  stopped  and 
investigated.  He  saw  a  woman,  apparently  sleeping,  near 
the  doorway  of  a  shop,  with  her  two  children  beside  her — 
one  an  infant  in  a  cradle.  Being  a  hot  night,  there  was 
nothing  particularly  surprising  in  this.  The  shop  door, 
however,  was  ajar,  and  the  motorman  peeped  in.  A  strong 
smell  of  benzine  assailed  his  nostrils  and  in  his  anxiety 
to  ascertain  the  cause  he  pushed  the  door  further  open  and 
stumbled  upon  two  little  bonfires  blazing  merrily.  Promptly 
arousing  the  apparently  sleeping  woman,  he  turned  in  the 
alarm.  Other  tenants  in  the  premises,  which  contained 
a  number  of  families  and  children,  rushed  down  and 
attempted  to  put  out  the  flames.  Then  the  "Sleeping 
Beauty"  of  fiction  became  the  shrew  of  fact,  and  a  wicked 
one  to  boot.  "Don't  do  that,"  she  screamed  angrily.  "You 
will  only  spread  the  fire.  Let  the  firemen  put  it  out."  Her 


98  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

peculiar  anxiety  not  to  have  the  outbreak  promptly  ex- 
tinguished aroused  suspicion,  and  investigations  were  made. 
Firemen  found  several  wide  mouthed  bottles  in  different 
parts  of  the  shop,  all  containing  kerosene,  around  their 
necks  being  tied  cords  which  led  to  a  main  string  passing 
out  under  the  door  to  where  this  ingenious  lady  had  been 
pretending  to  sleep.  Her  explanation  of  the  paraphernalia 
was  unintentionally  humorous.  She  suggested  that  it  must 
have  been  the  action  of  a  "wicked"  burglar.  This  na'ive 
proposition,  however,  did  not  satisfy  the  authorities,  and 
after  a  severe  cross-examination  she  admitted  that  the  fire 
had  been  made  at  the  instigation  of  a  so-called  adjuster. 
This  enterprising  agent,  learning  that  she  had  only  thirty 
cents  left  in  the  world,  had  glibly  pointed  out  to  her  the 
great  advantages  to  be  derived  from  a  fire  policy  followed 
by  a  convenient  fire.  He  had  dilated  upon  his  success 
as  a  professional  incendiarist,  remarking  that  in  Chicago  he 
had  engineered  two  uncommonly  remunerative  ventures. 
In  the  first  he  had  "made"  the  fire  while  the  family,  in  order 
to  avoid  suspicion,  had  gone  to  a  cinematograph  show, 
while  in  the  second  case,  in  order  to  give  some  spectacular 
realism  to  a  bald  piece  of  villainy,  he  had  actually  allowed 
himself  to  be  rescued  at  the  crucial  moment  by  the  fire  de- 
partment. Acting  upon  this  information,  the  police  made 
inquiries  and  quickly  ran  to  earth  the  promoter  of  this 
dastardly  plot.  Brought  face  to  face  with  his  accuser, 
a  dramatic  scene  ensued.  The  woman,  upon  it  being  pointed 
out  to  her  that  she  had  endangered  the  lives  of  numerous 
innocent  children  through  the  inhuman  character  of  her 
act,  completely  broke  down  and  exclaimed,  "I  didn't  want 
the  fire,  I  didn't  do  it !  I  will  tell  the  truth  to  show  that 
I  made  a  mistake  in  being  influenced  by  a  wicked  man. 
He  is  a  firebug  and  has  made  many  fires  in  Chicago." 

It  only  remains  to  be  said  that  the  woman  received  a 
well  merited  sentence  of  five  years  penal  servitude,  while 
the  community  will  be  freed  from  the  attentions  of  her  ac- 
complice for  double  that  period.  One  more  account  of 
feminine  ingenuity.  A  lady  residing  in  an  apartment  house 


THE   TRADE   OF  ARSON  99 

with  her  three  children,  had  as  her  sole  lodger  an  old 
soldier  with  a  wooden  leg.  One  morning  she  peremptorily 
gave  him  notice  to  leave  the  same  day,  and  within  twenty- 
four  hours  a  regrettable,  and,  of  course,  accidental,  fire 
gutted  the  flat.  The  insurance  company  concerned  paid  her 
claim  without  demur,  the  sufferer  removing  without  delay 
to  more  commodious  quarters  in  another  part  of  the  town. 
After  a  short  sojourn  there,  she  announced  her  intention 
of  paying  a  visit  to  the  seaside.  The  night  following  her 
departure,  some  children  sleeping  in  the  apartment  below 
the  one  she  had  vacated,  were  awakened  by  hot  water  drip- 
ping upon  them  from  the  ceiling.  Immediate  investigation 
resulted  in  the  discovery  of  a  fire  in  the  flat  above,  the 
heat  of  which  had  melted  the  water  pipes  and  had  thus 
been  instrumental  in  arousing  the  inmates  of  the  house 
to  the  peril  of  their  position.  After  the  fire  department  had 
suppressed  the  outbreak,  a  remarkable  state  of  affairs  was 
disclosed.  Sideboards,  cupboards  and  closets  were  found  to 
be  literally  packed  with  ingenious  "time  plants,"  guaranteed 
successfully  to  smoulder  for  several  hours,  and  then,  by 
bursting  into  flame,  to  work  their  wicked  will  upon  every- 
thing inflammable  in  their  vicinity.  Under  the  bed  was 
also  discovered  a  wooden  box  stuffed  with  papers  and 
cotton  waste  soaked  in  oil  and  surmounted  by  the  inevitable 
candle.  In  the  presence  of  such  glaring  evidence  the 
woman  was  obliged  to  cut  short  her  holiday  and  return 
in  the  company  of  a  police  officer.  The  insurance  company 
which  had  been  mulcted  in  damages  over  the  preceding 
fire  suddenly  bethought  itself  of  the  unusual  claim  of 
"$6o  for  one  wooden  leg,"  and  upon  making  inquiries 
found  that  the  possessor  of  this  means  of  locomotion  had 
never  mourned  its  loss.  Brought  to  trial,  after  a  lengthy 
hearing,  the  accused  was  found  guilty  of  "arson  in  the 
first  degree." 

The  writer  feels  that  he  cannot  do  better  than  give  the 
exact  words  of  the  judge  who  passed  sentence  upon  this 
callous  fiend.  "There  are  certain  crimes  which  are  so 
revolting  in  their  utter  disregard  of  human  life  that  one 


ioo  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

wonders  at  the  cold-blooded  calculation  necessary  to  per- 
petrate them.  Such  a  crime  is  arson  in  the  first  degree, 
for  which  crime  you  were  indicted,  and  for  which  you 
have  been  convicted  in  a  lesser  degree  after  a  careful 
trial — the  first  woman  found  guilty  of  this  crime  here 
in  twenty  years.  I  am  convinced  that  you  were  responsible 
for  the  previous  fire  in  your  former  home,  and,  when  you 
found  that  you  were  not  suspected  of  that  crime  you 
planned  this  affair,  and  at  the  same  time,  increased  the 
insurance  upon  your  property.  When  the  defendant  is 
a  woman,  a  mother,  who  with  fiendish  indifference  for 
the  lives  of  two  families  in  her  house  with  four  little  chil- 
dren in  one  and  two  in  the  other,  acts  as  you  have,  such 
a  deed  passes  human  understanding  upon  any  other  hypothe- 
sis save  that  you  were  capable  of  becoming  a  murderess 
by  that  midnight  fire,  arranged  in  your  rooms  with  the 
candles  set  in  the  oil  soaked  combustibles.  You,  absent  to 
avoid  suspicion,  and  all  for  the  paltry  insurance  money 
you  hoped  to  get.  I  have  never  seen  a  cooler,  a  more 
calculating  prisoner;  no  womanly  sympathy  is  here,  sim- 
ply a  fire  fiend  trying  to  secure  money  at  any  cost.  Any 
feeling  of  pity  or  sympathy  for  you  at  this  hour  I  must 
suspend  before  my  stronger  feeling  of  duty  towards  the 
people  of  this  community,  whose  lives  and  property  have 
twice  been  in  jeopardy  through  your  act.  You  are  a  men- 
ace to  this  city  of  homes  and  I  therefore  sentence  you  to 
remain  in  prison  for  a  term  of  not  less  than  fourteen 
years  and  not  more  than  fourteen  years  and  six  months." 

Comment  upon  the  above  is  superfluous,  unless  it  be  to 
say  that  never  was  sentence  so  richly  deserved. 

Because  it  is  almost  inconceivable  that  women  should 
descend  to  such  depths,  these  instances  of  female  depravity 
have  been  given  precedence  in  the  roll  of  dishonour  con- 
nected with  incendiarism.  But  let  it  not  be  imagined  that 
the  crimes  of  men  in  this  direction  are  any  less  horrible 
or  less  callous. 

The  story  of  Samuel  Brant  is  of  recent  occurrence  and 
is  one  of  the  few  instances  where  a  firebug  has  been  caught 


THE   TRADE   OF   ARSON 


red-handed.  Brant  openly  boasted  that  he  had  worked 
up  his  profession  into  a  high  art  and  that  no  fire  marshal 
would  ever  suspect  him  of  the  many  charges  which  could 
be  placed  to  his  account. 

With  two  other  men  he  arranged  to  set  fire  to  a  certain 
flat  in  Brooklyn  and  it  may  have  been  his  over-confidence 
which  gave  the  clue  to  the  ever  vigilant  police  department. 
Unknown  to  Brant  he  had  been  under  surveillance  for  some 
time  and  the  exact  hour  at  which  the  fire  was  to  take  place 
had  been  discovered.  The  fire  marshal  being  in  the  know, 
arranged  that  several  of  his  staff  should  disguise  them- 
selves as  street  cleaners  and  peddlers  and  loiter  about  in 
the  vicinity  of  the  premises.  In  a  push  cart,  beneath  a 
load  of  potatoes  and  other  vegetables,  were  concealed  a 
length  of  hose,  some  hand  grenades  and  various  fire- 
fighting  apparatus.  All  these  precautions  were  taken  in 
order  not  to  arouse  Brant's  suspicions,  but  just  at  the 
moment  when  all  arrangements  had  been  perfected,  a  guile- 
less policeman  very  nearly  caused  the  ruin  of  the  plan. 
He  had  stationed  himself  so  near  to  the  house  in  question 
that  it  was  feared  Brant  might  take  alarm  and  make  his 
escape.  Through  the  medium  of  a  woman  a  note  was 
sent  to  the  officer  stating  the  case  and  asking  him  to  leave 
his  beat  for  the  time  being.  Almost  immediately  after  the 
departure  of  the  policeman  smoke  was  noticed  to  be  is- 
suing from  the  windows  of  the  apartment  in  question,  and 
Brant,  accompanied  by  one  of  his  accomplices,  was  seen 
to  hurry  from  the  house.  This  was  the  signal  for  the 
supposed  street  cleaners  to  throw  aside  their  brooms  and  for 
the  peddlers  to  advance  nearer  with  their  innocent  look- 
ing push-cart.  Rapidly  they  closed  in  on  the  two  men, 
who,  remarkable  to  say,  showed  fight,  since  the  genus 
firebug  does  not  as  a  rule  suffer  from  a  surplus  of  physical 
courage.  They  were  quickly  overcome  and  handed  over  to 
the  police,  the  peddlers  suddenly  developing  into  first-class 
firemen,  who  speedily  extinguished  the  flames.  The  fire 
had  been  started  in  a  clothes  closet  and  the  flat  was  literally 
a  magazine  of  combustible  material.  At  his  trial  Brant 


\ipk  ;  •!  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

remarked,  "I  am  a  specialist  in  making  fires,  and  I  can  make 
them  so  that  no  one  can  catch  me.  The  Fire  Marshal  is 
a  joke.  If  he  gets  you,  all  you  have  to  do  is  to  tell  him 
that  you  were  away  and  get  some  one  to  prove  it."  It  was 
proved  that  Brant  and  his  associates  worked  a  regular 
system.  One  pf  them  would  solicit  business  by  going  to  the 
owner  of  a  store,  flat  or  small  business  concern  and  offer 
to  arrange  for  the  insurance;  at  the  same  time  planning 
the  burning  of  the  place.  His  terms  were  somewhat  exorbi- 
tant, judging  at  least  by  that  operation  which  cost  him 
his  freedom  for  fifteen  years.  A  policy  had  been  taken 
out  for  goods  supposed  to  be  worth  $800,  and  from  this 
sum  no  less  than  $500  was  to  be  deducted  by  way  of 
commission,  or  approximately  65  per  cent  of  the  claim. 

Incidentally  Brant's  gang  was  by  no  means  unique,  others 
are  known  to  have  operated  in  Chicago  and  Paterson,  N.  J., 
and  if  they  have  ceased  from  their  efforts  it  must  in  no 
small  degree  be  due  to  the  active  campaign  waged  lately 
against  all  of  their  kidney  by  Commissioner  Johnson  of 
the  New  York  Fire  Department,  who  can  well  claim  to 
be  their  bitterest  foe. 

Undoubtedly  one  of  the  most  dastardly  acts  in  the  entire 
history  of  incendiarism  was  the  series  of  operations  carried 
on  during  the  year  1912  by  a  gang  under  the  leadership  of 
a  fiend  in  human  form  known  popularly  as  "The  Torch." 
Their  system  of  swindling  the  fire  insurance  companies 
was  peculiarly  atrocious,  and  consisted  of  obtaining  policies 
on  good  horses,  substituting  for  the  same  broken-down 
hacks,  and  then  burning  the  latter  in  order  to  collect  their 
claims.  Fortunately,  for  a  week  prior  to  the  night  of  one 
of  their  projected  holocausts,  the  suspects  had  been  watched 
and  their  movements  had  become  known  to  the  Fire  Mar- 
shal. "The  Torch"  was  regarded  as  a  desperate  character, 
and  hence  the  Fire  Marshal's  assistants  who  were  chosen 
to  surround  the  stables  involved  on  the  night  in  question, 
were  heavily  armed,  while  some  two  hundred  yards  away 
two  steam  fire  engines  were  stationed  in  readiness  for 
immediate  action.  Shortly  after  midnight  the  watchers 


THE  TRADE  OF  ARSON  103 

were  rewarded  by  seeing  a  glare  inside  the  stable,  and 
a  moment  later  "The  Torch"  and  his  son  were  observed 
making  their  way  from  the  rear  of  the  stable  through  a 
hole  under  the  mangers.  An  alarm  whistle  was  blown; 
three  revolver  shots  punctuated  the  silence,  a  signal  to 
the  firemen  to  hurry  with  their  apparatus,  and  a  moment 
later  the  two  desperadoes  were  fighting  like  wildcats  in 
the  hands  of  their  captors.  When  an  entrance  into  the 
stable  had  been  effected,  it  was  difficult  even  for  men  ac- 
customed to  all  kinds  of  human  rascality,  to  realize  that 
what  they  saw  was  the  work  of  men  and  not  of  devils. 
There  were  three  fires  burning,  one  just  inside  the  doorway, 
a  second  a  few  feet  away  and  another  in  a  corner  im- 
mediately behind  seven  helpless  horses  which  were  tethered 
to  the  mangers.  The  coats,  tails  and  manes  of  two  of 
these  animals  were  saturated  with  gasoline.  One  of  them 
was  blind  and  the  other  was  lame.  The  fire  burning  inside 
the  doorway  was  so  arranged  as  to  block  the  only  exit 
in  case  of  possible  rescue,  and  succeeded  so  well  in  its  inten- 
tion that  for  a  considerable  time  it  hindered  and  rendered 
most  dangerous  the  efforts  of  the  firemen.  The  actual 
owner  of  the  horses  confessed  that  he  had  hired  "The 
Torch"  to  carry  out  this  inhuman  task,  since  he  had  been 
told  that  the  latter  was  an  expert  in  that  line  of  business. 
With  the  utmost  callousness  this  firebug  admitted  his  share 
in  the  deal,  and  showed  not  the  least  emotion  when  told 
that  for  the  next  twenty  years,  if  the  world  was  so  un- 
fortunate as  to  be  encumbered  with  his  presence  for  that 
time,  he  would  be  compelled  to  make  his  home  at  Sing  Sing 
prison.  Though  the  writer  knows  full  well  the  sentiments 
of  humanitarians  anent  corporal  punishment,  he  is  unable 
to  dissociate  himself  from  a  firm  conviction  that  for 
crimes  of  this  nature,  perpetrated  with  such  cold-blooded 
brutality,  flogging  is  the  most  suitable  reward.  Unfortu- 
nately the  number  of  stable  fires  is  considerable,  and  the 
fact  that  approximately  thirty-three  per  cent,  of  the  same 
are  listed  officially  as  "Cause  not  ascertained"  leads  to 
the  conclusion  that  they  are  of  suspicious  origin.  Here 


104  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

surely,  is  sufficient  food  for  unpleasant  thought,  for  the 
hand  which  will  apply  the  match  to  make  a  bonfire  of  a  lot 
of  dumb  animals,  will  most  assuredly  not  hesitate  where 
human  lives  are  involved.  In  another  case,  which  came 
under  the  writer's  notice,  no  less  than  sixty  horses  would 
have  perished  miserably,  but  for  the  prompt  action  of  the 
fire  brigade.  Six  separate  fires,  it  was  found,  had  been 
started  in  the  stalls  of  the  stable,  each  plant  consisting  of 
candles  surrounded  with  kerosene-soaked  straw.  For  per- 
petrators of  this  kind  of  outrage,  what  human  punishment 
can  be  too  great? 

The  following  case  is  of  interest  as  evidencing  the  truth 
that  in  popular  phraseology  "chickens  invariably  come  home 
to  roost." 

An  enterprising  gentleman  who  had  had  a  suspicious 
fire  in  a  candy  store,  had  been  carefully  kept  under  super- 
vision, as  it  was  expected  that  initial  success  would  en- 
courage future  operations.  One  bleak  March  morning,  a 
police  officer  was  on  patrol  in  the  neighbourhood  of  the 
suspect's  store  when  he  noticed  a  man  with  a  bundle  of 
newspapers  walking  briskly  down  a  side  street.  In  a  casual 
way  he  watched  him  and  saw  him  throw  away  something 
which  tinkled  metallically  as  it  fell  on  the  pavement.  The 
officer  picked  it  up  and  found  it  to  be  a  portion  of  a  toy 
cash  register  made  of  black  enameled  tin.  Putting  it  in  his 
pocket,  he  resumed  his  patrol  and  a  moment  later  came 
upon  a  motorman  who  had  discovered  a  fire  in  the  identical 
candy  store  under  observation,  and  the  alarm  was  turned 
in.  The  place  was  locked  and  there  was  a  strong  smell 
of  kerosene.  While  waiting  for  the  arrival  of  the  fire  ap- 
paratus, who  should  turn  up  but  the  same  man  whom  the 
policeman  had  seen  throw  away  the  metal  register.  The 
store  was  completely  gutted,  and  investigation  clearly 
pointed  to  incendiarism.  But  direct  proof  was  lacking.  It 
was  established  that  the  owner  was  in  serious  financial 
difficulties,  his  account  at  the  bank  consisted  only  of  six 
cents,  and  neighbors  testified  that  his  checks  had  been  re- 
turned marked  "insufficient  funds."  Further,  shortly  be- 


THE  TRADE  OF  ARSON  105 

fore  the  fire,  he  admitted  that  he  had  borrowed  money. 
This  was  certainly  evidence  of  a  presumptive  character,  but 
inadequate  to  secure  conviction.  On  searching  the  remains 
of  the  fire,  however,  a  charred  toy  cash  register  was 
discovered  minus  the  portion  corresponding  to  that  which 
had  been  picked  up  by  the  policeman.  Confronted  with 
this  exhibit,  the  suspect  first  declared  that  he  kept  several 
of  the  same  design  for  sale.  Later,  under  cross-examina- 
tion, he  allowed  that  for  fun  his  wife  had  used  one  and 
had  deposited  therein  two  dollars.  The  line  adopted  by  the 
prosecution  was  that  the  accused  had  prepared  his  store 
for  the  fire,  and  that  just  prior  to  his  departure  he  had 
recollected  the  two  dollars  and  had  broken  open  the  register 
in  order  to  secure  it,  carelessly  throwing  a  portion  of  the 
same  away  in  the  street.  Counsel  for  the  defense  sought 
to  shatter  this  theory  by  producing  a  brand  new  toy 
register  of  similar  design  in  court.  Triumphantly  he 
pointed  out  the  following  notice :  "To  open  this  bank  place 
ten  dollars  in  coin.  It  will  then  open  automatically.  If  you 
don't  deposit  ten  dollars  in  coin  you  will  have  to  get  an 
axe."  Where,  pleaded  the  counsel,  was  the  evidence  that 
accused  had  ever  even  possessed  an  axe?  It  was  obvious 
that  a  blaze  of  this  nature,  which  had  not  even  incinerated 
a  toy  cash  register  could  not  so  completely  destroy  a  steel 
axe  head  that  no  trace  of  it  could  be  found!  And  the  fire 
department  had  never  suggested  that  they  had  come  upon 
any  trace  of  such  a  thing ! !  Further,  his  client  maintained 
most  strongly  that  the  policeman  who  identified  him  as 
the  individual  who  had  dropped  the  portion  of  the  register 
on  the  morning  of  the  fire,  was  in  error.  And  in  any  case 
he  defied  the  jury  to  find  any  cause  to  connect  the  cash 
box  of  the  accused's  wife  with  that  under  discussion.  It 
had  been  proved  that  the  box  was  unopenable  without  an 
axe, — where  was  the  axe? 

Upon  this  the  jury  retired  to  consider  their  verdict. 
Everything  seemed  in  favor  of  the  prisoner,  when  one  of 
their  number  asked  to  inspect  the  exhibit.  Within  the  space 
of  three  minutes  he  had  disproved  the  printed  statement 


io6  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

on  its  exterior  and  had  opened  it  with  a  pen-knife.  That 
candy  store  keeper  received  a  well-earned  five  years*  im- 
prisonment. 

It  would  be  easy  to  continue  multiplying  instance  upon 
instance  and  story  upon  story  to  show  that  the  existence 
of  the  working  incendiary  is  no  figment  of  the  writer's 
imagination,  but  rather  a  fact  with  which  municipalities, 
fire  departments  and  insurance  companies  have  got  to  grap- 
ple. It  accounts  in  part  for  the  remarkable  discrepancies 
between  fire  losses  in  American  cities  and  those  in  Euro- 
pean communities.  During  1910  London  had  3,941  fires, 
Paris  2,030,  Berlin  2,068,  and  New  York  14,405.  For 
every  one  hundred  thousand  inhabitants  Berlin  has  97  fires, 
London  81,  St.  Petersburg  75,  Paris  74,  Vienna  59,  and 
New  York  300.  The  fire  loss  per  head  of  population 
in  the  United  States  generally  is  nearly  five  times  greater 
than  that  of  any  foreign  country.  In  New  York,  during 
1911,  the  per  capita  loss  was  $2.45,  while  the  average  for 
European  cities  was  about  $0.50,  sinking  as  low  as  twelve 
cents  in  two  towns  so  differently  situated  as  Southampton 
and  Dresden.  After  making  every  allowance  for  climatic 
differences,  structural  defects  and  the  use  of  inflammable 
building  materials,  it  is  difficult  to  escape  the  conclusion 
that  the  firebug  has  a  lot  for  which  to  answer.  Broadly 
speaking,  it  is  not  exaggeration  to  estimate  twenty-five  per 
cent,  of  New  York  fires  certainly,  as  of  incendiary  origin. 
The  insurance  risks  carried  by  the  one  hundred  and  sev- 
enty-five companies  in  New  York  total  the  gigantic  figure 
of  forty  billion  dollars,  spread  throughout  the  country. 
Hence,  it  goes  without  saying  that  the  influence  exerted 
by  these  corporations,  financial  and  otherwise,  is  stupendous 
and  may  indirectly  control  the  welfare  of  the  community. 
There  are  not  wanting  those  who  maintain  that  insurance 
companies,  within  a  certain  degree,  welcome  fires  as  be- 
speaking business.  It  is  reported  that  the  manager  of  a 
Scottish  insurance  company  in  a  speech  at  Edinburgh,  said, 
"Were  there  no  fires  there  would  be  no  insurance  business. 
And  on  the  other  hand,  the  greater  the  fire  damage,  the 


THE   TRADE   OF  ARSON  107 

greater  the  turnover,  out  of  which  insurance  companies 
make  profits."  Now  this  is  only  the  report  of  a  speech, 
and  quite  probably  has  been  transmitted  incorrectly,  for 
it  most  certainly  is  at  variance  with  the  opinions  of  the 
insurance  officials  with  whom  the  writer  has  come  in  con- 
tact. Rather  is  the  question  one  affecting  the  nation  as 
a  whole.  The  search  after  all  classes  of  business  is  so  keen 
nowadays,  the  turnover  so  tremendous  and  the  demands 
of  the  share-holders  for  large  profits  so  exacting,  that  di- 
rectors and  others  responsible  must  be  pardoned  if  in  their 
anxiety  to  do  the  best  for  those  dependent  upon  them 
they  accept  risks  which  cooler  calculation  and  difference 
of  environment  would  show  to  be  preposterous.  It  seems 
absurd  to  discuss  an  evil  and  then  not  to  suggest  the  rem- 
edy. But  incendiarism,  though  actively  affecting  the  rou- 
tine of  fire  departments  and  causing  fire  chiefs  endless 
worry  and  anxiety,  belongs  properly  to  a  sphere  outside 
the  purview  of  the  scientific  fire-fighter.  It  is  an  excres- 
cence on  the  social  fabric  which  needs  removal  by  those 
specially  equipped  for  the  task.  And  undoubtedly,  those 
referred  to  are  the  insurance  companies.  The  means  and 
methods  to  be  employed  must  be  left  to  them,  for  it  would 
be  as  futile  for  the  writer  to  tender  suggestions  on  such 
a  highl^  complicated  problem,  as  it  would  be  absurd  for 
underwriters  to  give  advice  to  him  regarding  the  best  way 
to  fight  a  fire  in  a  warehouse  filled  with  explosives.  But 
it  is  satisfactory  to  be  able  to  state  that  already  signs  are 
not  wanting  of  a  general  awakening  of  interest  in  the  sub- 
ject amongst  all  classes  affected,  professional  and  otherwise. 
That  is  to  say  the  insurance  companies  are  on  the  move 
and  it  is  no  longer  so  easy  to  effect  policies  on  worthless 
goods,  while  the  individual  of  doubtful  financial  stability 
and  dubious  reputation  is  likely  to  experience  considerable 
difficulty  in  persuading  even  the  most  reckless  of  agents 
to  consider  seriously  his  application.  Towards  this  happy 
consummation,  no  one  has  worked  with  more  energy  and 
good  will  than  Commissioner  Johnson  of  the  New  York 
Fire  Department,  to  whose  publication  on  the  subject  the 


io8  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

writer  is  indebted  for  many  illuminating  facts  used  in 
this  chapter.  It  will  at  least  be  conceded  by  all  concerned 
that  the  introduction  of  legislation  to  assist  the  insurance 
companies  in  their  laudable  efforts  by  "making  the  punish- 
ment fit  the  crime"  and  thoroughly  frightening  the  firebug 
by  the  penalties  awaiting  him,  would  be  a  distinct  step  in 
the  right  direction. 


CHAPTER  IX 

GASOLINE    AND    GARAGES 

THE  advent  of  the  motor  car  has  not  proved  an  unmixed 
blessing  to  the  fire-fighter,  and  it  is  no  exaggeration  to 
say  that  the  general  adoption  of  motor  traction  has  enor- 
mously increased  the  fire-risk.  In  the  first  place,  gasoline, 
the  most  usually  employed  of  motor  oils  is  an  extremely 
dangerous  substance  to  handle,  though  that  familiarity 
which  breeds  contempt  has  robbed  it  of  its  sinister  signifi- 
cance, while  ignorance  of  an  almost  culpable  nature  has 
rendered  its  handling  additionally  and  unnecessarily 
perilous. 

The  first  essential  for  motor  owner,  chauffeur  or  garage 
proprietor  is  that  he  should  understand  something  of 
the  chemical  qualities  of  gasoline,  in  which  term  may  be 
included  all  other  spirits  of  a  kindred  nature  such  as  petrol, 
naphthaline,  etc.  This  does  not  mean  that  they  must  study 
the  subject  with  the  microscopic  care  of  the  professional 
chemist,  but  it  does  presuppose  that  any  individual  gifted 
with  common  sense  prefers  to  know  the  characteristics  of 
the  most  important  adjunct  of  the  machine  he  essays  to 
own,  drive  or  house.  Gasoline  in  its  primitive  state  is  one 
of  the  component  factors  forming  crude  petroleum.  By  dis- 
tillation it  is  purified  to  a  greater  or  lesser  extent,  automo- 
biles, as  a  rule,  demanding  the  most  refined  spirit  available. 
It  is  possessed  of  no  flash  point,  that  is  to  say,  if  placed  in 
an  open  vessel  it  will  vaporize  at  any  ordinary  temperature, 
in  fact  even  with  the  thermometer  at  zero.  The  weight  of 
its  gas  is  three  and  a  half  times  greater  than  air,  which 
forms  an  inherent  hazard,  since,  unlike  ordinary  lighting 

109 


i  io  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

and  acetyline  gases,  which  rise  and  are  carried  off  by  a 
breeze  or  through  any  opening  which  causes  a  draught, 
it  falls  to  the  floor  and  will  lie  and  collect  unless  dis- 
turbed. Should  the  disturbance  take  the  form  of  a  lighted 
match  or  candle  a  tremendous  explosion  results  and  fire 
follows.  But  the  point  is,  that  there  is  nothing  to  show 
that  it  is  collecting  in  any  particular  place;  it  remains  dor- 
mant and  unobserved  like  a  snake  in  the  grass  and  is  every 
inch  as  dangerous  in  its  effects.  Further,  unmixed  with 
air,  this  vapor  is  comparatively  harmless;  its  virility  de- 
pends upon  its  admixture  with  the  ethereal  gases,  when 
one  pint  of  gasoline  is  sufficient  to  make  two  hundred  feet 
of  highly  explosive  mixture. 

In  the  liquid  state,  gasoline  is  innocuous,  that  is  to  say 
so  long  as  it  remains  an  absolute  liquid  it  can  neither  ignite, 
burn  or  explode.  Similarly,  pure  gasoline  vapor  will 
neither  ignite  nor  burn,  but  requires  the  assistance  of  the 
air,  and  it  is  precisely  for  this  reason  that  the  carburetor 
plays  such  an  important  part  in  the  mechanism  of  the  motor 
engine.  Its  highest  point  of  explosive  violence  is  reached 
when  roughly  one  part  of  vapor  mixes  with  eight  parts 
of  air,  and  decreases  in  combustibility  with  an  increase 
of  either  air  or  gasoline.  Another  peculiar  property  in 
gasoline  to  be  noted  is,  that  even  when  vaporized  and  mixed 
with  air,  it  has  a  definite  temperature  of  ignition,  just  as 
wood  or  any  other  combustible  material. 

Hence,  it  will  be  seen,  that  this  spirit  is  often  more 
dangerous  than  even  gunpowder  or  dynamite,  inasmuch 
as  the  latter  will  stay  where  they  are  placed  while  the  for- 
mer may  vaporize,  and,  creeping  subtly  along  a  floor  or 
passage,  may  be  ignited  a  hundred  feet  or  so  distant  from 
its  source.  The  resultant  flash  will  travel  back  through 
the  gas  strata,  thus  causing  an  explosion  or  fire  at  the 
point  of  its  inception.  With  such  ever-present  risks  atten- 
dant upon  its  use  it  might  be  imagined  that  every  possible 
precaution  would  be  adopted  by  those  handling  it.  And 
yet  exactly  the  reverse  is  the  case. 

Of  all  careless  persons,   chauffeurs  and  employees  of 


BEFORE   THE  ALARM    IS   TURNED    IN. 


GASOLINE   AND   GARAGES  in 

garages  may  justly  claim  preeminence.  In  spite  of  printed 
regulations  and  orders  prominently  displayed  they  will 
smoke  with  the  utmost  insouciance  at  every  possible  oppor- 
tunity, absolutely  heedless  of  the  fact  that  they  would  be 
just  as  well  advised  to  smoke  in  a  powder  mill!  And  if 
the  employees  are  bad  then  the  owners  are  not  much  better. 
Unless  compelled  by  municipal  ordinances,  they  are 
sublimely  indifferent  to  effective  fire  protection  in  their 
garages,  and  with  the  slightest  encouragement  will  press 
into  their  service  any  building,  however  unsuited  to  the 
purpose,  either  by  structure  or  convenience.  An  empty 
stable,  a  disused  church,  a  ramshackle  warehouse  built  of 
wood,  anything  does  so  long  as  there  is  sufficient  floor 
space  and  there  is  any  method  by  which  the  law  can  be 
contravened  with  impunity.  These  are  some  of  the  difficul- 
ties which  the  modern  fire-fighter  must  be  prepared  to 
encounter  and  by  some  means  overcome.  Needless  to  say, 
drastic  laws  have  been  introduced  for  the  proper  storage  of 
gasoline  in  garages,  though  in  this  direction  a  very  curious 
anomaly  may  be  noted.  Thus,  while  the  gasoline  in  the 
main  tank  is  assiduously  protected,  no  attention  is  given 
to  the  spirit  in  the  tanks  of  the  automobiles  themselves, 
often  amounting  to  thirty  or  forty  gallons  per  tank  and 
located  haphazard  throughout  the  entire  building.  It  is 
obvious  that,  if  a  fire  starts,  such  an  arrangement  is  only 
too  likely  to  lead  to  disaster,  and  that  the  care  displayed 
over  the  main  gasoline  tank  is  not  unlike  locking  the 
windows  against  burglars  and  leaving  the  door  wide  open. 
Broadly  speaking,  gasoline  should  be  stored  in  a  well- 
made  tank,  underground  and  beneath  the  floor  of  the 
garage,  and  in  this  connection  it  will  be  apropos  to  give 
some  excerpts  from  the  regulations  governing  garages  and 
the  storage  of  gasoline  in  New  York  city. 

The  following  six  sections  explain  succinctly  where  gar- 
ages should  under  no  circumstances  be  situated.  (A) 
No  garage  must  be  within  fifty  feet  of  the  nearest  wall  of 
a  building  occupied  as  a  school,  theatre  or  other  place  of 
public  amusement  and  assembly.  (B)  It  must  not  be 


H2  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

situated  in  any  building  occupied  as  a  tenement  house  or 
hotel.  This  is  by  no  means  uncommon  in  some  parts  of 
Europe,  though  any  one  conversant  with  the  peril  he  is 
running  would  preferably  sleep  above  a  fireworks  factory. 
(C)  Garages  may  not  be  located  in  buildings  not  con- 
structed of  fire-resisting  material  throughout.  (D)  They 
may  not  be  situated  in  places  where  paints,  varnishes  01 
lacquers  are  either  manufactured,  stored  or  kept  for  sale, 
(E)  Or  where  dry  goods  or  other  highly  inflammable 
materials  are  manufactured  or  kept  for  sale.  (F)  Oi 
where  rosin,  turpentine,  hemp,  cotton,  gun  cotton,  smokeless 
powder,  blasting  powder,  or  any  other  explosives  are  stored 
or  kept  for  sale. 

Such  regulations  may  sound  absurd  to  the  average 
citizen.  Who  on  earth  would  want  to  have  a  garage  in  c 
place  where  explosives  are  stored?  it  may  be  asked;  anc 
though  this  may  be  extreme  it  is  a  fact  that  most  of  the 
regulations  framed  for  fire  protection  are  fashioned  tc 
guard  against  the  proved  thoughtlessness  of  the  individual 
The  writer  is  reminded  of  a  genial  character  he  encoun 
tered  once  in  his  travels  in  a  certain  West  African  port 
The  gentleman  in  question  casually  knocked  his  pipe  ashes 
out  against  the  rim  of  an  open  keg  of  blasting  powder 
The  remonstrances  of  his  mates,  which  were  of  a  physica 
nature,  elicited  from  him  the  excuse,  "Well,  I've  ofter 
done  it  before  and  nothing  has  ever  happened."  It  wai 
quite  useless  to  argue  the  point;  that  he  would  have  beei 
blown  to  Jericho,  or  somewhere  else,  but  for  the  mere] 
of  providence  weighed  with  him  not  a  whit.  It  is  person: 
of  this  type  who  make  "nursery"  legislation  necessary,  anc 
their  name  in  the  motor  world  is  legion. 

The  following  sections  explain  themselves  and  serve  tc 
illustrate  how  gasoline  should  be  stored,  having  due  regarc 
to  safety.  (A)  "Each  storage  tank  shall  be  constructec 
of  steel  at  least  J4  of  an  incn  thick;  shall  have  a  capacit; 
of  not  more  than  275  gallons,  and  shall,  under  test,  stan< 
a  hydrostatic  pressure  of  at  least  100  pounds  to  the  squar 
inch.  (B)  Each  storage  tank  shall  be  coated  on  the  out 


GASOLINE   AND   GARAGES  113 

side  with  tar  or  other  rust-resisting  material,  shall  rest 
upon  a  solid  foundation  and  shall  be  embedded  in  and 
surrounded  by  at  least  twelve  inches  of  Portland  cement 
concrete,  composed  of  two  parts  of  cement,  three  parts  of 
sand  and  five  parts  of  stone.  (C)  Each  storage  tank 
installed  in  a  garage  shall  be  so  set  that  the  top,  or  highest 
point  thereof,  shall  be  at  least  two  feet  below  the  level 
of  the  lowest  cellar  floor  of  any  building  within  a  radius  of 
ten  feet  from  the  tank."  Garages  constructed  along  these 
lines  are  unlikely  readily  to  catch  alight,  and  the  financial 
outlay  rendered  necessary  by  such  structural  additions  is  as 
nothing  to  the  increased  security  obtained. 

The  following  rules  should  also  be  rigidly  observed  and 
are  applicable  to  garages  attached  to  private  houses,  which, 
be  it  said,  are  often  carelessly  looked  after  since  both 
master  and  man  are  only  too  prone  to  be  lax,  especially 
when  outside  the  sphere  of  city  regulations.  Incidentally, 
however,  this  is  precisely  one  of  the  occasions  demanding 
the  maximum  of  precaution.  "All  oils  spilled  on  the  floors 
of  a  garage  should  be  removed  at  once  by  sponging  or 
swabbing,  and  should  be  poured  into  the  drain  leading  to 
the  oil  separator  which  is  installed  so  as  to  be  connected 
to  the  house  drain,  and  so  arranged  as  to  separate  all  oils 
from  the  drainage  of  the  garage. 

"No  system  of  artificial  lighting  other  than  incandescent 
electric  lights  should  be  installed  in  any  garage  unless  of  a 
type  for  which  a  certificate  of  approval  has  been  issued 
by  the  fire  commissioner."  Of  course,  in  the  country,  there 
may  be  some  difficulty  over  this  provision,  but  common 
sense  applied  to  the  problem  will  certainly  limit  the  fire 
risk.  It  also  goes  without  say  that  no  stoves  or  any  appli- 
ance likely  to  produce  an  exposed  spark  should  be  installed 
in  a  garage,  unless  placed  in  a  room  separated  from  it  by 
fireproof  floors  and  walls.  As  regards  the  carelessness  of 
the  individual,  the  following  excerpt  taken  from  a 
speech  made  at  the  annual  meeting  of  the  National  Board 
of  Fire  Underwriters,  needs  no  comment. 

"I  confess  it  is  astonishing  to  find  that  the  fire  waste 


ii4  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

is  not  diminished  by  the  better  character  of  buildings  we 
are  getting.  We  are  getting  better  buildings  than  we  ever 
did  before,  but  the  losses  keep  up,  and  this  is  because 
fires  cost  more  today  than  they  ever  did  before.  And 
there  are  new  hazards.  We  are  using  higher  explosives ;  we 
are  using  higher  potentials  in  electrical  practice;  we  are 
using  more  gases,  like  gasoline.  Ten  years  ago  the  gaso- 
line engine  was  a  clumsy  device ;  there  were  but  few.  The 
development  of  the  gasoline  engine  has  brought  a  wide- 
spread field  for  it.  The  farmer  uses  it  for  cutting  his 
feed  and  grain;  the  merchant  uses  it;  the  manufacturer 
uses  it.  The  automobile  has  scattered  gasoline  all  over 
the  country.  To  my  desk  there  come  reports  of  thousands 
of  fires  every  year  from  gasoline — cleaning  with  gasoline, 
garages  stored  with  gasoline,  and  the  cheerful  idiot  who 
smokes  cigarettes  in  the  garages  and  throws  matches  about. 
Useless,  unnecessary  fires  must  be  checked.  If  we  can 
place  individual  responsibility;  if  we  can  change  the  atti- 
tude of  the  people  toward  the  man  who  has  a  fire  so  that 
they  can  see  that  he  is  not  an  object  of  sympathy  but  a 
man  who  has  offended  against  the  common  welfare,  unless 
he  can  prove  that  he  was  in  no  way  responsible  for  that 
fire,  then  we  will  approach  the  time  when  we  can  diminish 
those  hazards.  That  point  of  view  must  be  emphasized,  and 
when  every  man  who  has  a  fire  will  have  to  step  up  before 
the  Fire  Marshal's  investigation  and  is  exhibited  to  his 
fellows  as  an  offender  against  the  common  good,  as  a 
picker  of  the  pockets  of  the  rest  of  us,  I  believe  we  will 
correct  these  habits  of  carelessness." 

The  writer  cordially  endorses  the  above  and,  as  regards 
fire  control  in  garages,  is  inclined  to  add  that  for  the  lax 
in  this  respect,  no  condemnation  can  be  too  severe. 

From  the  latest  report  of  the  New  York  Board  of  Fire 
Underwriters  it  appears  that  of  206  recent  fires  33  per 
cent,  were  due  to  the  use  of  gasoline  for  cleaning  cars  and 
43  per  cent,  were  due  to  back  fire  into  the  carburetors  of 
automobiles.  Amongst  the  others  were  5  from  filling 
tanks  of  automobiles  with  lamps  burning,  3  from  smoking, 


SMOKY  FIBE,    NEW   YOBK. 


GASOLINE   AND   GARAGES  115 

4  from  gasoline  leaks  in  contact  with  a  hot  exhaust  pipe, 

5  from  defective  electric  equipment  on  cars  and  I   from 
spontaneous  combustion.     These  figures  point  to  the  fact 
that  the  promiscuous  use  of  gasoline  in  many  garages  for 
cleaning  purposes,  taken  in  conjunction  with  the  number 
of  fires  attributed  to  this  cause,  is  one  of  the  most  serious 
hazards  with  which  to  contend.     Although  the  investiga- 
tions indicate  that  33  per  cent,  of  all  fires  of  known  cause 
were  due  to  this  practice,  the  actual  number  is  probably 
even  greater  as  there  is  reason  to  believe  that  an  appreci- 
able number  of  fires  reported  as  caused  by  back  fire  into 
carburetors  are  due  directly  or  indirectly  to  cleaning  parts 
of  the  car  with  gasoline.    In  a  number  of  the  best  managed 
garages  the  prohibition  of  the  use  of  gasoline  for  cleaning 
purposes  is  strictly  enforced,  and  the  use  of  oils  no  more 
volatile  than  kerosene  is  insisted  upon.    In  other  cases  even 
kerosene  is  prohibited  for  such  purposes  and  use  of  caustic 
soda  and  water  or  a  similar  solution  is  required.     One 
golden  rule  for  all  garages,  public  or  private,  is  that  a 
number  of  buckets  filled  with  sand  should  be  kept  in  readi- 
ness for  any  emergency,  while  in  the  way  of  hand  extin- 
guishers   those    containing    carbonate    of    chloride    are 
amongst  the  most  effectual. 

Another  fruitful  source  of  danger,  as  far  as  the  use  of 
gasoline  is  concerned,  is  its  employment  in  dry-cleaning 
and  sponging  establishments.  In  fact,  it  is  an  interesting 
commentary  upon  the  philosophy  of  life  that  those  ele- 
ments which  are  of  the  greatest  general  use  to  society  are 
nearly  always  fraught  with  an  irreducible  minimum  of 
risk,  if  applied  without  caution.  The  cleansing  properties 
of  gasoline  are  beyond  estimate;  upon  this  being  discov- 
ered, fools  literally  stepped  in  where  angels  feared  to  tread, 
with  the  result  that  several  lives  were  lost  in  consequence 
of  hairdressers  using  this  spirit  as  a  shampoo,  while  it  was 
not  unusual  for  employees  in  dry-cleaning  establishments 
to  wander  around  gas  lighted  rooms  with  trays  full  of  the 
liquid. 

Things  have  altered  since  then.    The  former  operation 


ii6  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

has  been  forbidden,  and  the  latter  is  now  hedged  in  with 
such  restrictions  that  safety  is,  to  a  considerable  extent, 
guaranteed.  Usually  the  method  employed  consists  of 
revolving  drums,  each  containing  thirty  or  more  gallons 
of  gasoline,  which,  being  in  a  constant  state  of  disturbance, 
has  a  tendency  to  throw  off  heavy  fumes,  hence  the  drums 
must  be  kept  closed.  When  the  garments  are  removed  and 
placed  in  the  rotary  driers,  or  centrifugals,  more  fumes 
are  given  off;  and,  finally,  the  function  of  the  drying 
room  is  to  enable  the  clothes  to  throw  off  such  gasoline 
as  still  remains  in  them,  so  that  this  room  is  especially 
thick  with  vapor.  In  addition,  a  number  of  open  vessels 
containing  from  five  to  fifty  gallons  of  spirit  will  be  found 
scattered  about  the  place,  their  raison  d'etre  being  to 
facilitate  the  cleaning  of  gloves,  laces  and  other  light  and 
filmy  fabrics.  The  hazard  in  places  of  this  description  is 
too  apparent  to  require  much  elaboration,  and  it  need  only 
be  said  that  the  system  of  storing  the  main  supply  of  gaso- 
line should  be  the  same  as  in  garages,  namely  underground. 
In  this  connection  it  is  of  interest  to  note  that  never,  in 
the  experience  of  the  writer,  has  any  fire  started  from  an 
underground  storage  system,  and  in  no  case  has  fire  been 
increased  because  of  such  a  system.  In  fact,  there  is  no 
case  on  record  where  the  gasoline  in  a  buried  tank  has  been 
affected  by  a  fire.  This  proves  conclusively  that  there  is 
no  danger  in  its  storage  when  properly  arranged,  but  only 
in  its  handling.  Thus,  the  latter  should  be  expedited  in 
every  possible  way,  and  so  arranged  that  the  gasoline  is 
not  exposed  to  the  air,  and  the  ventilation  of  garages 
and  dry-cleaning  plants  should  be  so  effected  that  no  gases 
can  accumulate  on  the  floors. 

Hence,  the  safe  and  sane  handling  of  gasoline  is  no 
longer  a  question  of  insurmountable  or  insuperable  diffi- 
culty. Inasmuch  as  the  automobile  has  come  to  stay,  inas- 
much as  motor  traction  will  be  increasingly  applied  in  the 
near  future  for  all  classes  of  transportation,  and  inasmuch 
as  the  same  familiarity,  akin  to  the  affection  formerly 
shown  to  the  horse,  will  now  be  extended  to  the  motor 


GASOLINE   AND   GARAGES  117 

car,  though  the  affection  for  the  former  must  not  be 
allowed  to  develop  into  contempt  for  the  latter,  then  it  be- 
hooves the  layman  to  understand  something  of  the  tool 
with  which  he  will  be  called  upon  to  deal.  Gasoline  has 
been  termed  "man's  unseen  enemy,"  but,  like  many  other 
potential  adversaries,  careful  handling  may  transform  it 
into  a  useful  servant  and  a  trusty  friend. 

In  conclusion,  in  order  to  emphasize  the  point  once 
again,  that  point  which  is  so  regularly  neglected  and  which 
is  such  a  fruitful  source  of  danger  to  the  community  at 
large,  the  words  of  the  New  York  Fire  Ordinance  may 
be  quoted  in  extenso;  they  apply  to  all  places  in  which 
gasoline  is  either  used  or  stored.  "It  shall  be  unlawful  for 
any  person  to  smoke  or  to  carry  a  lighted  cigar,  cigarette 
or  pipe,  into  any  room  or  compartment  in  which  volatile 
or  inflammable  oil  is  stored  or  used;  and  a  notice  bearing 
in  large  letters  the  words  'SMOKING  FORBIDDEN/ 
together  with  an  excerpt  of  the  rules  governing  the  subject 
in  smaller  letters  shall  be  displayed  in  one  or  more  con- 
spicuous places  on  each  floor  where  volatile  inflammable 
oil  is  stored  or  used.  Those  breaking  the  regulation 
hereon  displayed  are  guilty  of  a  misdemeanor." 


CHAPTER  X 

GREAT  FIRES  AND  HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT 

PART  I 

GREAT  conflagrations  are  plentifully  recorded  during 
Roman  times  and,  as  has  been  shown,  all  that  the  science  of 
the  period  coupled  with  most  comrnendable  forethought 
could  accomplish,  was  done  to  stave  off  the  peril.  None 
the  less,  however,  the  magnificent  "Basilica  Julia,"  a  build- 
ing devoted  to  law  courts,  completed  by  Augustus  in 
B.C.44  after  plans  designed  by  Julius  Caesar,  was  entirely 
gutted  and  remains  to  this  day  a  relic  of  architectural  an- 
tiquity and  a  perpetual  reminder  that  fire  risks  ever  were, 
and  probably  ever  will  be,  amongst  the  perils  of  existence. 
Again  in  64  A.D.  Rome  was  devastated  by  an  outbreak 
which  lasted  three  days  and  burned  out  most  of  the  resi- 
dential portion  of  the  city.  It  has  been  popularly  attributed 
to  that  peculiarly  eccentric  emperor  Nero,  but  in  justice 
to  that  despot  it  must  be  added  that  the  evidence  of  his 
being  a  "firebug"  on  a  gigantic  scale  is  slight.  Then  oc- 
curred a  lapse  of  centuries,  during  which,  no  doubt,  bad 
fires  took  place,  but  they  were  not  of  a  sufficiently  startling 
character  to  leave  any  permanent  mark  upon  history  till 
the  partial  destruction  of  London  in  1666.  The  details 
of  this  conflagration  are  so  well  known  that  it  seems  almost 
unnecessary  to  dwell  upon  it,  but  the  following  description 
drawn  from  a  diary  of  that  gossipy  old  chronicler  Samuel 
Pepys,  appears  worthy  of  quotation,  since  he  was  an  eye- 
witness, and  the  style  in  which  he  writes  is  so  quaint: 

"Sept.  2nd.  Lord's  Day.  Some  of  .our  maids  sitting 
up  late  last  night  to  get  things  ready  against  our  feast  to- 
day, Jane  called  us  up  about  three  in  the  morning  to  tell  us 

118 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    119 

of  a  great  fire  they  saw  in  the  city.  So  I  rose  and  slipped  on 
my  night  gown  and  went  to  the  window ;  but  being  unused 
to  such  fires  as  followed,  I  thought  it  far  enough  off;  and 
so  to  bed  again  and  to  sleep.  .  .  Bye  and  bye  Jane 
comes  and  tells  me  that  she  hears  that  above  three  hundred 
houses  have  been  burned  down  tonight  by  the  fire  we  saw 
and  that  it  is  now  burning  down  all  Fish  Street  by  London 
Bridge.  So  I  made  myself  ready  presently  and  walked 
to  the  Tower;  and  there  got  up  upon  one  of  the  high 
places,  Sir  J.  Robinson's  little  son  going  up  with  me;  and 
there  I  did  see  the  houses  at  that  end  of  the  bridge  all  on 
fire  and  an  infinite  great  fire  on  this  and  the  other  side,  the 
end  of  the  bridge;  which  among  other  people  did  trouble 
me  for  poor  little  Michell  and  our  Sarah  on  the  bridge.  So 
down  with  my  heart  full  of  trouble  to  the  Lieutenant  of 
the  Tower,  who  tells  me  that  it  begun  this  morning  in  the 
King's  baker's  house  in  Pudding  Lane,  and  that  it  hath 
burnt  down  St.  Magnus's  Church  and  the  most  part  of  Fish 
Street  already.  So  I  go  down  to  the  waterside  and  there 
got  a  boat,  and  through  bridge,  and  there  saw  a  lamentable 
fire.  Poor  Michell's  house  as  far  as  the  Old  Swan,  already 
burned  that  way,  and  the  fire  running  further,  that  in  a 
very  little  time  it  got  as  far  as  the  Steele-yard,  while  I  was 
there.  Everybody  endeavouring  to  remove  their  goods,  and 
flinging  into  the  river,  or  bringing  them  into  lighters  that 
lay  off;  poor  people  staying  in  their  houses  as  long  as  till 
the  very  fire  touched  them,  and  then  running  into  boats  or 
clambering  from  one  pair  of  stairs  by  the  waterside  to  an- 
other. And  among  other  things,  the  poor  pigeons,  I  per- 
ceive, were  loth  to  leave  their  houses,  but  hovered  about  the 
windows  and  balconies  till  they  burned  their  wings  and  fell 
down.  Having  staid,  and  in  an  hour's  time  seen  the  fire 
rage  every  way;  and  nobody  to  my  sight  endeavouring  to 
quench  it,  but  to  remove  their  goods  and  leave  all  to  the 
fire;  and  having  seen  it  get  as  far  as  the  Steele-yard,  and 
the  wind  mighty  high  and  driving  it  into  the  city;  and 
everything  after  so  long  a  drought  proving  combustible, 
even  the  very  stones  of  the  churches;  and  among  other 


120  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

things  the  poor  steeple  by  which  pretty  Mrs. lives, 

and  whereof  my  old  schoolfellow  Elborough  is  parson, 
taken  fire  in  the  very  top  and  there  burned  till  it  fell  down ; 
I  go  to  Whitehall  with  a  gentleman  with  me,  who  desired 
to  go  off  from  the  Tower  to  see  the  fire  in  my  boat;  and 
there  up  to  the  King's  closet  in  the  Chapel  where  people 
come  about  me,  and  I  did  give  them  an  account,  dismayed 
them  all,  and  word  was  carried  into  the  King.  So  I  was 
called  for  and  did  tell  the  King  and  the  Duke  of  York  what 
I  saw;  and  that  unless  his  Majesty  did  command  houses 
to  be  pulled  down,  nothing  could  stop  the  fire.  They 
seemed  much  troubled,  and  the  King  commanded  me  to  go 
to  my  Lord  Mayor  for  him,  and  command  him  to  spare 
no  houses,  but  to  pull  down  before  the  fire  every  way. 
The  Duke  of  York  bid  me  tell  him,  that  if  he  would  have 
any  more  soldiers,  he  shall ;  and  so  did  my  Lord  Arlington 
after,  as  a  great  secret.  Here  meeting  with  Captain  Cocke, 
I  in  his  coach,  which  he  lent  me,  and  Creed  with  me  to  St. 
Paul's;  and  there  walked  along  Watling  Street  as  well  as 
I  could,  every  creature  coming  away  loaded  with  goods  to 
save,  and  here  and  there  sick  people  carried  away  in  beds. 
Extraordinary  good  goods  carried  in  carts  and  on  backs. 
At  last  met  my  Lord  Mayor  in  Canning  Street,  like  a  man 
spent,  with  a  handkercher  about  his  neck.  To  the  King's 
message  he  cried,  like  a  fainting  woman,  "Lord,  what  can 
I  do  ?  I  am  spent :  people  will  not  obey  me.  I  have  been 
pulling  down  houses ;  but  the  fire  overtakes  us  faster  than 
we  can  do  it."  That  he  needed  no  more  soldiers;  and  that, 
for  himself,  he  must  go  and  refresh  himself,  having  been 
up  all  night.  So  he  left  me  and  I  him  and  walked  home ; 
seeing  people  all  almost  distracted,  and  no  manner  of  means 
used  to  quench  the  fire.  The  houses,  too,  so  very  thick 
thereabouts,  and  full  of  matter  for  burning  as  pitch  and  tar 
in  Thames  Street;  and  warehouses  of  oyle  and  wines  and 
brandy  and  other  things.  Here  I  saw  Mr.  Isaac  Houblon, 
the  handsome  man,  prettily  dressed  and  dirty  at  his  door  at 
Dowgate,  receiving  some  of  his  brother's  things,  whose 
houses  were  on  fire;  and,  as  he  says,  have  been  removed 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    121 

twice  already;  and  he  doubts,  as  it  soon  proved,  that  they 
must  be  removed  from  his  house  also,  in  a  little  time,  which 
was  a  sad  consideration.  And  to  see  the  churches  all  filling 
with  goods  by  people  who  themselves  should  have  been 
quietly  there  at  the  time.  By  this  time  it  was  about  twelve 
o'clock  and  so  home  and  there  find  my  guests.  .  .  . 

"So  near  the  fire  as  we  could  for  smoke;  and  all  over  the 
Thames,  with  one's  faces  in  the  wind,  you  were  almost 
burned  with  a  shower  of  firedrops.  This  is  very  true;  so 
as  houses  were  burned  by  these  drops  and  flakes  of  fire, 
three  or  four,  nay  five  or  six  houses,  one  after  the  other. 
When  we  could  endure  no  more  upon  the  water,  we  to  a 
little  alehouse  on  the  Bankside,  over  against  the  Three 
Cranes,  and  there  staid  till  it  was  dark  almost,  and  saw 
the  fire  grow;  and  as  it  grew  darker,  appeared  more  and 
more;  and  in  corners  and  upon  steeples,  and  between 
churches  and  houses,  as  far  as  we  could  see  up  the  hill  of 
the  city,  in  a  most  horrid  malicious  bloody  flame,  not  like 
the  fine  flame  of  an  ordinary  fire." 

The  chronicler  at  this  point  is  forced  to  leave  his  own 
home  and  finds  shelter  with  one,  Sir  W.  Rider.  This  occu- 
pied him  during  the  3rd  of  September  and  he  continues  on 
the  4th. 

"Sir  W.  Pen  and  I  to  the  Tower  Street,  and  there  met 
the  fire  burning,  three  or  four  doors  beyond  Mr.  Howell's, 
whose  goods  poor  man,  his  trayes  and  dishes,  shovells,  etc., 
were  flung  all  along  Tower  Street  in  the  kennels,  and  peo- 
ple working  therewith  from  one  end  to  the  other;  the  fire 
coming  on  in  that  narrow  street  with  incredible  fury.  .  .  . 
And  in  the  evening  Sir  W.  Pen  and  I  did  dig  another  (pit) 
and  put  our  wine  in  it,  and  I  my  parmazan  cheese,  as  well 
as  my  wine  and  some  other  things.  ...  I  after  supper 
walked  in  the  dark  down  to  Tower  Street,  and  there  saw 
it  all  on  fire,  at  the  Trinity  House  on  that  side  and  the 
Dolphin  Tavern  on  this  side,  which  was  very  near  us,  and 
the  whole  heaven  on  fire.  Now  begins  the  practice  of  blow- 
ing up  of  houses  in  Tower  Street,  those  next  the  Tower, 
which  at  first  did  frighten  people  more  than  anything ;  but 


122  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

it  stopped  the  fire  where  it  was  done,  it  bringing  down  the 
houses  to  the  ground  in  the  same  places  they  stood,  and 
then  it  was  easy  to  quench  what  little  fire  was  in  it,  though 
it  kindled  nothing  almost.  .  .  .  5th.  About  two  in  the 
morning  my  wife  calls  me  up,  and  tells  me  of  new  cryes  of 
fire,  it  being  come  to  Barking  Church,  which  is  the  bottom 
of  our  lane.  I  up,  and  finding  it  is  so,  resolved  presently 
to  take  her  away,  and  did,  and  took  my  gold,  which  was 
about  2,350  pounds,  W.  Hewer  and  Jane  down  by 
Proundy's  boat  to  Woolwich;  but  Lord,  what  a  sad  sight 
it  was  by  moonlight,  to  see  the  whole  city  almost  on  fire, 
that  you  might  see  it  as  plain  at  Woolwich,  as  if  you  were 
by  it.  ...  But  to  the  fire,  and  there  find  greater  hopes 
than  I  expected ;  for  my  confidence  of  finding  our  office  on 
fire  was  such,  that  I  durst  not  ask  anybody  how  it  was 
with  us,  till  I  come  and  saw  it  was  not  burned.  But,  going 
to  the  fire,  I  find,  by  the  blowing  up  of  houses,  and  the 
great  help  given  by  the  workmen  out  of  the  King's  yards, 
sent  up  by  Sir  W.  Pen,  there  is  a  good  stop  given  to  it,  as 
well  at  Marke  Lane  End  as  at  ours ;  it  having  only  burned 
the  dyall  of  Barking  Church,  and  part  of  the  porch,  and 
was  there  quenched.  I  up  to  the  top  of  Barking  steeple, 
and  there  saw  the  saddest  sight  of  desolation  that  I  ever 
saw;  everywhere  great  fires,  oyle  cellars,  and  brimstone 
and  other  things  burning.  I  became  afraid  to  stay  there 
long,  and  therefore  down  again  as  fast  as  I  could,  the  fire 
being  spread  as  far  as  I  could  see  it;  and  to  Sir  W.  Pen's, 
and  there  eat  a  piece  of  cold  meat,  having  eaten  nothing 
since  Sunday  but  the  remains  of  Sunday's  dinner.  Here  I 
met  with  Mr.  Young  and  Whistler,  and  having  removed 
all  my  things,  and  received  good  hopes  that  the  fire  at  our 
end  is  stopped,  then  I  walk  into  the  town  and  find  Fen- 
church  Street,  Gracious  Street,  and  Lumbard  Street  all  in 
dust.  The  Exchange  a  sad  sight,  nothing  standing  there, 
of  all  the  statues  or  pillars,  but  Sir  Thomas  Gresham's  pic- 
ture in  the  corner.  Into  Moore-fields,  our  feet  ready  to 
burn,  walking  through  the  town  among  the  hot  coals,  and 
find  that  full  of  people,  and  poor  wretches  carrying  their 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    123 

goods  there,  and  everybody  keeping  his  goods  together  by 
themselves ;  and  a  great  blessing  it  is  to  them  that  it  is  fair 
weather  for  them  to  keep  abroad  night  and  day;  drunk 
there,  and  paid  two-pence  for  a  penny  loaf.  Thence  home- 
ward, having  passed  through  Cheapside,  and  Newgate  mar- 
ket all  burned;  and  seen  Anthony  Joyce's  house  in  fire; 
and  took  up,  which  I  keep  by  me,  a  piece  of  glass  of  the 
Mercer's  chapel  in  the  street,  where  much  more  was,  so 
melted  and  buckled  with  the  heat  of  the  firelike  parchment. 
I  did  also  see  a  poor  cat  taken  out  of  a  hole  in  a  chimney, 
joyning  to  the  wall  of  the  Exchange,  with  the  hair  all 
burned  off  the  body  and  yet  alive.  .  .  .  6th.  Up  about  five 
o'clock,  and  met  Mr.  Gauden  at  the  gate  of  the  office,  I 
intending  to  go  out,  as  I  used  every  now  and  then,  today 
to  see  how  the  fire  is,  to  call  our  men  to  Bishopsgate,  where 
no  fire  had  yet  been  near,  and  there  is  now  one  broke  out ; 
which  did  give  great  grounds  to  people  and  to  me,  too,  to 
think  that  there  is  some  kind  of  plot  in  this,  on  which  many 
by  this  time  have  been  taken,  and  it  hath  been  dangerous 
for  any  stranger  to  walk  in  the  streets,  but  I  went  with  the 
men,  and  we  did  put  it  out  in  a  little  time ;  so  that  that  was 
well  again.  It  was  pretty  to  see  how  hard  the  women  did 
work  in  the  cannells,  sweeping  of  water;  but  then  they 
would  scold  for  drink,  and  be  as  drunk  as  devils.  I  saw 
good  butts  of  sugar  broke  open  in  the  street,  and  people 
give  and  take  handfuls  out,  and  put  into  beer,  and  drink  it. 
And  now  all  being  pretty  well,  I  took  boat,  and  over  to 
Southwarke,  and  took  boat  on  the  other  side  of  the  bridge, 
and  so  to  Westminster,  thinking  to  shift  myself,  being  all 
in  dirt  from  top  to  bottom;  but  could  not  there  find  any 
place  to  buy  a  shirt  or  a  pair  of  gloves,  Westminster  Hall 
being  full  of  people's  goods,  those  in  Westminster  having 
removed  all  their  goods,  and  the  Exchequer  money  put  into 
vessels  to  carry  to  Nonsuch;  but  to  the  Swan  and  there 
was  trimmed:  and  then  to  White  Hall,  but  saw  nobody; 
and  so  home.  A  sad  sight  to  see  how  the  river  looks;  no 
houses  nor  church  near  it,  to  the  Temple  where  it  stopped. 
And  home,  did  go  with  Sir  W.  Batten,  and  our  neighbour, 


i24  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

Knightley,  who  with  one  more  was  the  only  man  of  any 
fashion  left  in  the  neighbourhood  thereabouts,  they  all  re- 
moving their  goods,  and  leaving  their  houses  to  the  mercy 
of  the  fire.  .  .  .  Thence  down  to  Deptford,  and  there  with 
great  satisfaction  landed  all  my  goods  at  Sir  G.  Carteret's 
safe,  and  nothing  missed  I  could  see  or  hear.  .  .  .  But 
strange  it  is  to  see  Clothworker's  Hall  on  fire  these  three 
days  and  nights  in  one  body  of  flame,  it  being  the  cellar 
full  of  oyle.  7th.  Up  by  five  o'clock ;  and,  blessed  be  God, 
find  all  well;  and  by  water  to  Pane's  Wharf e.  Walked 
hence,  and  saw  all  the  town  burned,  and  a  miserable  sight 
of  Paul's  Church,  with  all  the  roofs  fallen  and  the  body  of 
the  quire  fallen  into  St.  Faythe's ;  Paul's  School  also,  Lud- 
gate,  and  Fleet  Street.  My  father's  house,  and  the  church, 
and  a  good  part  of  the  Temple  alike.  .  .  .  This  day  our 
Merchants  first  met  at  Gresham  College,  which,  by  proc- 
lamation, is  to  be  their  Exchange.  Strange  to  hear  what 
is  bid  for  houses  all  up  and  down  here;  a  friend  of  Sir  W. 
Ryder's  having  a  hundred  and  fifty  pounds  for  what  he 
used  to  let  for  forty  pounds  per  annum.  Much  dispute 
where  the  Custom  House  shall  be;  thereby  the  growth  of 
the  city  again  to  be  foreseen.  .  .  .  People  all  over  the 
world  do  cry  out  of  the  simplicity  of  my  Lord  Mayor  in 
generall ;  and  more  particularly  in  this  business  of  the  fire, 
laying  it  all  upon  him.  .  .  .  Much  good  discourse;  among 
others,  of  the  low  spirits  of  some  rich  men  of  the  city  in 
sparing  any  encouragement  to  the  poor  people  that  wrought 
for  the  saving  of  their  houses.  Among  others,  Alderman 
Starling,  a  very  rich  man,  without  children,  the  fire  at  next 
door  to  him  in  our  lane,  after  our  men  had  saved  his  house, 
did  give  two  shillings  and  sixpence  among  thirty  of  them, 
and  did  quarrel  with  some  that  would  remove  the  rubbish 
out  of  the  way  of  the  fire,  saying  that  they  had  come  to 
steal.  .  .  .  1 5th.  Captain  Cocke  says  he  hath  computed  that 
the  rents  of  the  houses  lost  this  fire  in  the  city  comes  to 
six  hundred  thousand  pounds  per  annum.  .  .  .  I7th.  By 
water,  seeing  the  city  all  the  way,  a  sad  sight  indeed,  much 
fire  being  still  in." 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    125 

So  much  for  the  story  of  the  fire  of  London  as  told  by 
so  inquisitive  and  garrulous  an  eyewitness  as  Samuel 
Pepys.  He  could  have  had  no  idea  that  two  and  a  half 
centuries  later,  all  that  he  remarked  as  passing  strange 
would  be  repeated  in  another  continent  and  amongst  build- 
ings higher  than  the  then  summit  of  "Paul's  Church." 

And  yet  it  is  curious  to  note  how  identical  in  many  re- 
spects are  the  great  conflagrations  of  today.  The  general 
rush  for  safety  with  never  a  moment's  consideration  as  to 
whether  after  all  there  may  not  be  some  advantage  in  the 
defence  of  the  home  by  the  individual,  the  starting  of  sub- 
sidiary fires  by  burning  embers,  the  use  of  explosives  as  a 
means  of  stopping  a  conflagration,  often  only  to  increase 
the  damage,  the  frantic  appeal  to  the  Mayor  to  do  some- 
thing and  the  failure  of  that  individual  often  to  rise  to  the 
occasion  and  finally,  of  course,  the  finding  of  a  suitable 
scapegoat  upon  whom  to  heap  blame.  It  also  proves  the 
lamentable  condition  to  which  the  science  of  fire  prevention 
had  sunk,  when  the  most  important  and  the  most  wealthy 
city  of  the  period,  not  only  possessed  no  organized  plan  of 
fire  resistance,  but  was  content  to  let  it  burn  for  aught  its 
inhabitants  cared,  so  long  as  their  individual  property  was 
saved.  The  lesson,  however,  was  not  forgotten,  and  un- 
doubtedly the  modern  fire  department  owes  its  renaissance 
from  Roman  times  to  this  disaster,  which  once  and  for  all 
taught  the  good  burgesses  of  London  and  elsewhere  that 
fire  was  an  enemy  as  crafty  and  as  dangerous  as  any  on 
land  or  sea. 

Amongst  great  conflagrations,  that  of  the  city  of  Balti- 
more, which  occurred  on  Sunday,  February  7,  1904,  and 
continued  over  the  greater  part  of  the  following  day,  at- 
tains special  prominence  from  the  fact  that  in  spite  of  the 
stupendous  damage  done  to  property  no  lives  were  lost. 
The  burnt  area  covered  140  acres  and  comprised  80  city 
blocks  in  the  business  section,  while  no  less  than  27  great 
buildings  of  fire  resistive  construction  were  completely 
gutted  and,  in  some  cases,  collapsed.  It  may  here  be  stated 
that  at  no  time  was  there  any  shortage  of  water,  which, 


126  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

of  course,  is  one  of  the  most  general  causes  for  the  spread 
of  a  fire.  At  10.48  on  that  Sunday  morning,  the  automatic 
alarm  registered  a  call  from  the  basement  of  the  Hurst 
Building,  a  wholesale  drygoods  house  with  a  varied  stock, 
including  a  large  supply  of  celluloid  novelties.  Its  location 
was  the  southeast  corner  of  Liberty  and  German  Streets 
and  within  48  seconds  of  the  alarm,  an  engine  company 
and  a  hook  and  ladder  company  under  command  of  the 
District  Chief  were  upon  the  scene.  At  that  time  no  fire 
was  visible  on  the  first  floor,  and  neither  smoke  nor  heat 
was  apparent.  Presumably  this  led  to  an  underestimation 
of  the  seriousness  of  the  outbreak,  as  the  firemen  promptly 
proceeded  to  attack  only  with  a  single  line  of  chemical  hose, 
passed  from  the  German  Street  side  of  the  building  into 
the  basement.  The  small  blaze  discovered  there,  and  prob- 
ably caused  by  a  smouldering  pile  of  rubbish,  suddenly 
burst  into  flame,  which,  with  incredible  rapidity,  ran  up  the 
elevator  shaft,  driving  the  firemen  from  their  positions. 
About  seven  minutes  later  a  violent  explosion  occurred, 
blowing  out  the  windows  in  the  building  and  shattering  all 
the  glass  in  the  immediate  neighbourhood.  It  was  then 
seen  that  the  entire  house  was  alight  from  top  to  bottom 
and  the  flames  shooting  out  through  the  windows  greedily 
licked  the  walls  of  the  buildings  opposite,  which,  in  their 
turn,  took  fire. 

Being  Sunday,  a  large  proportion  of  the  popula- 
tion were  at  church,  when  the  muffled  boom  of  the 
explosion  was  heard  above  the  solemn  strains  of  sacred 
music.  What  it  portended  none  could  tell,  but  in  the 
twinkling  of  an  eye  ministers  and  their  congregations  had 
left  their  devotions  and  hurried  into  the  street.  As  though 
in  answer  to  their  worst  fears,  another  dull  rumble  of 
threatening  significance  was  borne  across  the  morning 
breeze.  Later  this  was  ascertained  to  have  been  caused 
by  the  explosion  of  a  large  quantity  of  blasting  powder, 
which,  by  blowing  out  more  windows,  expedited  the  onrush 
of  the  flames. 

Residents    in   the   hilly   portions   of   the   city,    gazing 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    127 

fearfully  in  the  direction  of  the  sound,  could  see  huge 
volumes  of  fleecy  smoke  rising  sullenly  from  the  busi- 
ness quarter,  and  then  at  last  the  realization  was  brought 
home  upon  them  that  they  were  face  to  face  with  a  great 
conflagration. 

Amongst  the  first  to  reach  the  outbreak  were 
scores  of  business  men  intent  upon  saving  their  books  and 
records,  and  who  eagerly  enlisted  the  services  of  boys,  loaf- 
ers, longshoremen,  in  fact,  any  person  willing  to  aid  in  the 
all-important  task.  The  Express  Companies  likewise  re- 
sponded with  all  speed  to  the  sudden  demands  made  upon 
them  and  sent  emergency  calls  for  all  their  employees  to 
requisition  hand-carts  and  wagons. 

Meantime  the  outbreak  had  increased  alarmingly, 
and  had  obviously  grown  beyond  the  control  of 
the  fire  department.  A  district  alarm  had  almost 
at  once  been  sent  in,  and  the  Departmental  Chief, 
hurrying  to  the  scene  of  operations,  had  quickly  real- 
ized that  the  flames,  fanned  by  an  increasing  wind  and 
spreading  in  two  directions,  would  need  a  greater  force  to 
deal  with  them  than  he  had  at  his  disposal.  Also  bad  luck 
seemed  to  dog  their  most  desperate  efforts.  An  attempt 
to  save  a  valuable  piece  of  apparatus  cost  precious  time  and 
was  unsuccessful,  while  Chief  Horton  himself  was  unfor- 
tunate enough  soon  after  his  arrival  to  be  incapacitated 
for  duty  by  a  severe  electric  shock  from  a  fallen  cable. 
It  is  impossible  to  estimate  the  moral  effect  of  such 
an  occurrence,  for  even  as  on  a  battlefield  soldiers 
look  for  encouragement  and  stimulus  to  their  comman- 
der, even  more  so  do  the  rank  and  file  of  a  fire-fighting 
force  depend  on  the  example  and  propinquity  of  their 
Chief. 

As  soon  as  it  became  clear  that  the  conflagra- 
tion was  assuming  colossal  proportions,  urgent  mes- 
sages were  sent  to  surrounding  towns,  such  as 
Washington,  Chester,  York  and  Philadelphia,  for 
their  assistance  and  ultimately  even  to  New  York, 
which  responded  to  the  call  with  promptitude.  Owing  to 


128  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

the  congestion  of  apparatus,  however,  the  crowds  of  spec- 
tators and  the  general  confusion,  many  of  the  out-of-town 
engines  could  not  be  utilized  to  the  best  of  advantage,  while 
difference  in  hose  couplings  obliged  numbers  to  obtain  their 
own  water  supply  direct  from  the  harbour,  thus  preventing 
their  presence  where  most  urgent.  The  fire  generally  took 
a  westerly  direction,  and  the  buildings  in  the  path  of  the 
flames  failed  to  offer  any  resistance,  owing  to  their  "fire- 
walls" being  parallel  to  the  onset. 

In  the  town  itself  the  conditions  were  lamenta- 
ble. At  the  City  Hospital,  the  Sisters  of  Mercy 
with  smiling  faces  and  sinking  hearts  endeavoured 
to  keep  all  news  of  the  fire  from  their  charges, 
while  the  staff  physicians  stationed  themselves  on  the  roof 
in  order  to  extinguish  the  burning  embers  which  rained 
upon  them.  Finally  it  was  deemed  necessary  to  transport 
the  sufferers  to  a  place  of  safety  in  the  upper  town,  a  task 
carried  out  with  the  greatest  tenderness  and  skill.  Need- 
less to  add,  all  medical  men  in  the  town  had  offered  their 
services,  and  though  happily  these  were  required  in  only  a 
few  instances,  the  knowledge  of  the  fact  went  a  long  way 
towards  reassuring  the  timid.  From  5  o'clock  in  the  after- 
noon till  midnight,  the  fire  made  its  greatest  headway,  the 
wind  during  this  period  having  increased  from  14  miles  an 
hour  in  a  westerly  direction  to  twenty-five  miles,  after 
which  it  veered  to  northwest,  and  remained  in  that  quarter 
with  decreasing  velocity  till  the  finish.  The  spread  of  the 
conflagration  in  the  direct  path  of  the  wind  was  practically 
unchecked  by  the  operations  of  the  fire-fighters,  by  the 
doubtful  expedient  of  dynamiting  both  burning  and  un- 
burned  buildings,  by  the  streets  or  by  the  so-called  fire- 
proof buildings. 

Minor  explosions,  however,  did  much  to  hamper  the  effi- 
cacy of  the  department,  152  whiskey  barrels,  for  instance, 
caught  fire  and  burst,  flooding  the  street  with  burning  spirit 
and  causing  indirectly  the  destruction  of  three  pieces  of 
apparatus.  It  may  be  here  mentioned  that  valuable  assist- 
ance was  rendered  by  volunteers,  numbering  some  two 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    129 

hundred,  who  extinguished  a  large  number  of  subsidiary 
fires  started  by  burning  brands. 

In  quarters  not  in  the  direct  path  of  the  wind  some  suc- 
cesses were  registered  and  served  to  cheer  the  drooping 
spirits  of  the  fighters.  On  the  west  side  of  Liberty  Street, 
and  even  in  the  vicinity  of  the  Hurst  Building,  a  strong 
force  concentrated  to  windward  succeeded  in  saving  a  large 
shirt  factory,  keeping  the  temperature  down  to  a  point 
where  the  automatic  sprinklers  were  not  called  into 
play.  Subsequently  that  system  certainly  proved  its  value. 
The  drygoods  store  of  O'Neil  &  Co.,  the  entire  in- 
terior of  which  was  provided  with  that  apparatus,  was 
threatened  with  destruction,  the  roof  boards  being  ignited 
owing  to  their  tin  sheathing  becoming  red  hot.  Fif- 
teen sprinkler  heads  opened  and  prevented  that  fire  from 
spreading. 

Another  notable  instance  of  successful  defense  was  that 
made  by  a  third  wholesale  drygoods  house,  the  Lloyd  Jack- 
son Co.,  situated  at  the  southeast  corner  of  Liberty  and 
Lombard  Streets.  Owners  and  employees  put  up  a  stiff 
fight,  kept  the  roofs  wet  by  hose  streams  from  their  private 
fire  pump,  and  hung  blankets  soaked  with  water  over  the 
cornices.  At  the  same  time  water  was  pumped  into  the 
sprinkler  supply  tank  above  the  roof  until  it  overflowed, 
when,  by  plugging  up  the  roof  drain  pipes,  the  water  was 
forced  to  run  over  the  cornice  and  thus  formed  a  "water 
curtain"  down  the  north  front  of  the  building.  A  large 
amount  of  glass  was  broken,  but  there  was  practically  no 
damage  to  the  interior. 

Perhaps  the  most  dramatic  scenes  were  enacted  in  the 
neighbourhood  of  the  docks,  where,  as  already  stated,  the 
out-of-town  departments  were  able  to  find  full  scope  for 
their  services.  No  one  lacked  for  employment.  In  the  river 
tugs  of  all  sizes  dashed  in  and  out  amongst  the  shipping, 
towing  to  safety  great  vessels  and  their  valuable  cargoes, 
whose  charterers  or  agents  had  visions  of  their  entire  de- 
struction. Rescue  had  come  none  too  soon,  for  the  decks 
of  many  had  grown  so  hot  that  it  was  agony  for  the  sailors 


I3o  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

to  tread  their  scorched  surfaces,  while  the  paint  on  funnels 
and  sides  blistered  and  peeled  off  in  flakes. 

A  North  German  Lloyd  cargo  steamer  making  its 
way  slowly  up  the  bay,  was  confronted  with  the 
spectacle  of  what  would  have  awaited  it,  had  it 
docked  a  few  hours  earlier,  and  anchored  hurried- 
ly at  a  safe  distance.  One  busy  tug  was  the  means 
of  rescuing  the  President  of  the  C.  A.  Gambril  Co.,  whose 
offices  were  behind  the  fruit  wharves.  Absorbed  in  saving 
his  books,  he  had  not  observed  that  his  way  to  the  street 
was  cut  off  by  the  advancing  flames  until  he  reached  the 
door.  His  only  hope  now  lay  in  the  docks,  which  were  al- 
ready in  a  precarious  state,  and  clutching  his  treasures 
under  his  arms,  he  ran  at  full  speed  along  the  wharf's  edge 
searching  with  anxious  eyes  for  a  boat  and  even  meditating 
the  final  arbitrament  of  the  water  below  him.  Fortunately 
his  plight  was  noticed,  and  he  was  dragged  on  to  the  tug 
none  the  worse  for  his  adventure. 

And  now  occurred  the  first  notable  victory  of  men 
against  fire  in  this  portion  of  the  city.  Had  the 
flames  succeeded  in  involving  Denmead's  malt  house, 
not  all  the  fire  departments  in  America  could  have 
stemmed  the  tidal  wave  of  destruction  which  would  have 
ensued,  and  it  is  to  the  credit  of  the  fire-boat  "Cataract" 
that  this  catastrophe  was  averted.  Aided  by  companies  on 
land,  she  fought  the  oncoming  conflagration  with  grim  de- 
termination until  the  safety  of  the  malt  house  was  assured. 
By  this  time,  thirty-six  companies,  a  police  boat  and  two 
tugs  had  concentrated  all  their  force  in  the  vicinity  of  Jones 
Falls,  a  little  dirty,  bad  smelling  stream,  which  had  never 
served  a  useful  purpose,  and  which  the  municipality  had 
proposed  filling  in  owing  to  its  insanitary  condition.  There 
city  stood  by  city,  Wilmington  by  Chester,  York  by  Wash- 
ington, Baltimore  by  Philadelphia  and  New  York,  which 
had  arrived  late  upon  the  scene  but  was  doing  yeoman's 
service.  Five  firemen  on  the  roof  of  one  building  had  a 
narrow  escape.  Working  like  demons  to  save  the  adjoining 
houses  they  heard  shouts  of  warning  from  their  comrades 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    131 

in  the  street,  and  to  their  dismay  saw  the  flames  beneath 
them.  A  tall  telegraph  pole,  which  fortunately  rose  to  the 
height  of  the  roof,  on  which  they  stood,  was  the  only  means 
of  escape  from  the  furnace,  which  they  could  hear  roaring 
below  them.  Reaching  a  tin  gutter,  which  afforded  them' 
some  hold,  they,  one  by  one,  clutched  the  pole  and  slid  to 
the  ground,  the  roof  on  which  they  had  stood  falling  in  be- 
fore the  last  man  had  once  again  his  feet  on  solid  earth. 
Around  the  lumber  yards  on  either  side  of  Jones  Falls, 
steam  and  smoke  rose  in  such  clouds  that  day  was  turned 
into  night  and  firemen  struggled  along  in  practical  dark- 
ness. 

At  length  the  united  efforts  of  all  the  fire  departments 
were  beginning  to  tell  and  the  final  struggle  for  supremacy 
was  short  and  decisive.  A  minor  fire  had  been  started  by 
sparks  in  a  woodyard  across  the  falls,  and  for  a  moment  it 
seemed  as  though  past  efforts  were  to  be  obliterated  in  this 
new  development.  But  Baltimore  and  Chester  faced  it  un- 
dismayed and  human  skill  triumphed  over  its  deadly  enemy. 
From  that  time  on  it  was  a  comparatively  easy  matter  to 
confine  the  fire  to  the  limits  which  it  had  already  reached, 
and  the  last  flames  were  extinguished  towards  the  evening 
of  that  exhausting  day. 

New  York  long  cherished  a  souvenir  of  the  event 
in  the  shape  of  a  stray  dog  which  adopted  engine 
"16"  as  its  foster  father  and  followed  it  faithfully  through 
the  streets  all  day.  It  accompanied  the  crew  on  their  re- 
turn and  made  itself  perfectly  at  home  in  its  new  surround- 
ings, responding  to  its  name  of  "Baltimore"  as  though  it 
had  never  known  any  other. 

It  is  estimated  that  the  temperature  of  the  fire  was  rarely 
much  in  excess  of  2,200  degrees  Fahr.,  although  in  some 
spots  it  seems  to  have  been  approximately  2,800  degrees  or 
more.  According  to  various  estimates  the  most  intense 
heat  in  the  fire-resistive  buildings  lasted  from  30  to  60 
minutes,  varying  with  the  amount  of  combustible  contents, 
exposure  and  other  features.  Cast-iron  radiators  and  type- 
writer frames  were  found  in  some  places  almost  completely 


i32  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

destroyed  by  oxidation,  but  had  melted  in  a  few  cases  only. 
Wired  glass  melted  in  a  number  of  instances.  In  contra- 
distinction to  ordinary  fires  in  individual  buildings,  which 
usually  spread  vertically  from  floor  to  floor,  this  conflagra- 
tion was  essentially  a  horizontal  fire  as  regards  its  attack 
and  progress  in  each  building.  As  a  rule  every  story  was 
ignited  simultaneously  through  the  exterior  windows,  and 
the  fire  swept  across  the  building  and  out  at  the  opposite 
side.  Under  such  conditions  the  protection  of  floor  open- 
ings will  avail  but  little  if  the  windows  are  unprotected. 

Vaults  made  of  brick  walls  built  up  from  the  ground, 
especially  those  having  double  walls  with  an  air  space  be- 
tween, made  a  remarkably  good  showing  when  provided 
with  double  iron  doors,  the  outer  ones  being  filled  with 
about  four  inches  of  cement  for  insulation  against  heat. 
Vaults  made  of  ordinary  terra  cotta  tiles  about  five  inches 
thick,  and  carried  on  the  floors  and  structural  frame,  failed 
in  a  number  of  cases,  owing  to  the  fact  that  the  tile  was 
fragile  and  was  cracked  or  broken  by  the  heat.  About  25 
per  cent,  of  the  contents  of  the  tile  vaults  was  destroyed. 
Some  of  these  tiled  vaults  also  had  double  doors,  each  made 
of  a  single  thickness  of  sheet  steel  with  no  insulation 
against  heat.  In  a  number  of  cases  the  inner  door  was  left 
open,  and  the  heat  which  radiated  through  the  outer  one 
destroyed  the  contents.  Portable  safes  fared  badly,  ap- 
proximately 65  per  cent,  of  their  contents  having  been  de- 
stroyed. This  was  true  of  all  makes  of  such  safes,  whether 
insulated  with  cushions  of  concrete  or  not. 

It  is  a  curious  fact  that  the  low  bank  buildings,  on  ac- 
count apparently  of  their  small  height  and  in  some  cases 
sheltered  position,  usually  escaped  the  maximum  heat  of 
the  general  conflagration  and  did  not  receive  an  extreme 
fire  test.  As  a  rule,  they  were  partially  wrecked  by  falling 
walls  of  higher  buildings.  A  group  of  high  office  buildings 
of  steel  and  terra  cotta  tile  construction  were  typical  of 
what  may  be  expected  from  structures  of  this  type,  and  it 
is  interesting  to  note  that  the  damage  was  generally  great- 
est in  the  stories  above  the  first.  Notwithstanding  the  fact 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    133 

that  practically  no  water  was  used  by  the  fire  department 
in  any  of  these  buildings,  the  basements  and,  in  some  cases, 
the  first  stories  were,  to  all  intents  and  purposes,  untouched, 
although  the  floors  above  were  completely  burnt  out.  Even 
the  wooden  nailing  strips,  which  were  embedded  in  cinder 
concrete  below  the  top  flooring,  were  entirely  destroyed. 

It  was  also  specially  noticeable  that,  although  the  con- 
flagration attacked  the  fire-resistive  buildings  with  great 
severity,  the  largest  damage  to  the  interiors  was  due  to  the 
fires  in  the  buildings  themselves.  The  damage  was  appre- 
ciably greatest  where  there  had  been  a  considerable  amount 
of  combustible  material  in  storage.  Even  the  severest  in- 
jury to  the  exterior  finish  of  the  walls  occurred  over  the 
windows  on  the  leeward  side,  when  the  fire  came  from 
within. 

Such  was  the  great  fire  of  Baltimore,  the  effects  of  which 
staggered  the  insurance  companies  of  two  continents  and 
sent  not  a  few  into  liquidation.  But,  as  is  often  the  case,  in 
such  events,  it  brought  in  its  train  fresh  channels  of  thought 
anent  fire  control,  while  the  energy  and  enterprise  of  its 
citizens  has  quickly  obliterated  all  signs  of  the  lamentable 
occurrence.  Without  going  too  deeply  into  problems  which 
are  dealt  with  in  general  elsewhere,  there  is  one  point  that 
must  make  appeal  to  even  the  veriest  tyro  on  fires  and  their 
fighting;  namely,  that  Ovid  when  he  penned  the  lines 

"Beginnings  check; 
Too  late  is  physic  sought" 

was  giving  the  world  in  epitomized  form  the  very  key  to 
the  mastery  of  success  against  flames. 

The  writer  must  plead  the  indulgence  of  his  readers  if,  in 
describing  the  great  fire  which  destroyed  the  Equitable 
Building  in  New  York,  the  narrative  is  related  in  the  first 
person.  Owing  to  the  fact  that  he  was  so  intimately  asso- 
ciated with  the  events  of  that  memorable  occasion,  to  deal 
with  it  otherwise  would  be  impossible,  having  due  regard 
for  the  interests  involved. 


134  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

At  5  155  on  the  morning  of  January  9,  1912,  the  gong  in 
my  quarters  struck  2-2-24,  which  indicated  a  second  alarm 
from  station  24,  at  the  corner  of  Nassau  and  Pine  Streets. 
Two  minutes  sufficed  for  me  to  cover  the  distance  of  about 
one  and  a  half  miles  between  my  quarters  and  the  scene  of 
the  outbreak,  which  proved  to  be  in  the  Equitable  Life 
Assurance  Building.  This  was  an  oldish  structure,  eight 
stories  in  height  and  occupying  the  whole  block,  bounded 
on  the  north  by  Cedar  Street,  on  the  south  by  Pine  Street, 
on  the  east  by  Nassau  Street,  and  on  the  west  by  Broadway. 
The  three  first-mentioned  thoroughfares  were  extremely 
narrow  and  contained  buildings  of  considerable  height, 
though  some  of  them  were  of  antique  construction  and 
doubtful  fire  resistance.  On  entering  from  Pine  Street,  I 
ascended  the  main  stairway  to  the  fourth  floor,  whence 
looking  up  I  could  see  that  a  considerable  area  of  the  stories 
above  was  involved. 

I  immediately  directed  my  first  aide,  Lieutenant 
Rankin,  to  send  out  a  third  alarm,  and  then  pro- 
ceeded to  the  fifth  floor,  where  I  met  Acting  Deputy- 
Chief  Devanny,  the  officer  in  command  previous  to  my  ar- 
rival. Subordinate  to  him,  and  directing  the  companies, 
were  Battalion  Chiefs  W.  J.  Walsh  and  George  Kuss.  One 
glance  at  the  situation  sufficed  to  impress  me  with  the  great 
battle  ahead,  and  at  once  I  ordered  a  fourth  alarm  with  a 
special  call  for  water  tower  No.  2.  Water  tower  No.  i, 
which  had  responded  on  the  first  alarm,  was  already  raised 
on  the  Pine  Street  side  of  the  building.  I  returned  to  the 
street  with  a  full  grasp  of  the  conditions  to  be  met.  A 
sixty-mile  gale  was  blowing  with  the  thermometer  near 
zero.  The  direction  of  the  wind  was  W.  S.  W.,  and  I  fore- 
saw that  it  would  drive  the  fire  towards  Nassau  Street, 
where  several  old  buildings,  such  as  the  Mutual  Life  and 
the  Fourth  National  Bank,  lay  directly  in  its  path.  At  this 
point  Nassau  Street  is  only  47  feet  wide,  and  should  the 
flames  have  swept  the  buildings  to  the  east,  under  existing 
weather  conditions,  an  uncontrollable  conflagration  would 
have  resulted.  To  protect  this  point,  therefore,  was  the 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    135 

first  manoeuvre  and  the  reason  for  acquiring  an  additional 
water  tower. 

The  second  alarm  assignment  reported  to  me  on  my 
return  to  Pine  Street  and  Broadway,  and  Acting 
Chief  Kelly,  of  the  3rd  Battalion,  was  immediately  ordered 
to  take  command  in  Nassau  Street.  Engine  companies  were 
assigned  to  him  and  ordered  to  take  their  lines  to  the  roof 
of  the  Fourth  National  Bank  to  drive  the  fire  back  when 
it  broke  through  the  eastern  wall  of  the  building,  as  was 
plainly  evident  would  soon  occur.  Captain  Henry,  Super- 
vising Engineer,  was  directed  to  meet  water  tower  No.  2 
on  its  arrival  and  have  it  placed  in  Nassau  Street  directly 
in  line  with  the  centre  of  the  Equitable,  connecting  it  with 
the  high-pressure  hydrants  in  Maiden  Lane,  and  to  order 
the  high-pressure  pumps  started  at  a  pressure  of  200 
pounds.  This  was  done  to  reinforce  the  lines  on  the  roof 
of  the  Fourth  National  Bank. 

It  may  seem  to  the  layman  that  the  transmitting  of  the 
alarms,  the  assignment  of  companies  and  the  hundreds 
of  orders  consequent  thereon  would  take  an  appreciable 
length  of  time.  Yet,  from  the  moment  the  gong  struck  in 
my  room  until  all  arrangements  had  been  perfected,  exactly 
six  minutes  had  elapsed.  The  actual  plan  of  battle  was 
evolved  in  less  than  30  seconds  after  my  arrival,  and  from 
that  plan  I  never  deviated. 

Knowing  the  construction  of  the  building,  with  its  four 
entrances  and  corridors  leading  therefrom  to  a  great 
central  staircase,  it  seemed  doubtful  from  the  first 
whether  the  blaze  could  be  conquered,  but  the  motto 
of  the  department  under  my  command  has  ever  been, 
"Fight  to  a  finish,"  and  hence  we  endeavoured  to  outflank 
the  fire  by  working  from  the  staircase  to  windward,  i.  e., 
towards  Broadway  on  the  Cedar  Street  side  of  the  building. 
Similar  tactics  were  employed  towards  Nassau  Street  to 
confine  the  fire  to  the  Pine  Street  side,  between  the  streams 
directed  by  the  twelve  companies  in  the  interior  and  the 
heavy  volume  of  water  from  the  lines  placed  on  the  upper 
floors  of  the  buildings  on  the  south  of  Pine  Street.  Such 


i36  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

was  the  first  line  of  attack,  and  a  second  line  was  at  once 
provided  by  the  companies  in  Nassau  Street  and  the  tower 
stationed  there.  It  is  my  deliberate  opinion  that  the  in- 
terior dispositions  of  the  forces  at  my  disposal  would  cer- 
tainly have  been  sufficient,  and  have  succeeded  in  quelling 
the  fire,  while  the  regrettable  loss  of  life  which  followed 
would  have  been  avoided,  had  it  not  been  for  the  criminal 
weakness  of  the  iron  columns  supporting  so  heavy  a  roof 
as  that  which  surmounted  the  Equitable  Building. 

The  report  of  the  New  York  Board  of  Underwriters  on 
the  subject  is  as  follows: 

"The  columns  appear  to  have  been  very  defective,  due  to 
the  shifting  of  the  core  during  casting,  making  one  side  of 
column  very  much  thinner  than  the  other.  .  .  .  Their  con- 
dition indicates  beyond  much  doubt  that  the  initial  collapse 
in  each  case  was  due  to  the  failure  of  one  or  more  cast  iron 
columns." 

Thoroughly  mindful  of  this  circumstance,  I  ordered 
every  person  but  the  firemen  from  the  premises.  At  the 
moment  there  were  hundreds  of  cleaners  and  other  people 
within  its  walls,  absolutely  ignorant  of  any  danger,  as  in- 
deed to  the  ordinary  observer  there  were  no  untoward 
signs,  and  only  trained  experts  could  detect  the  presence 
of  peril.  It  is  a  matter  of  considerable  difficulty  to  per- 
suade persons,  who  fancy  they  have  business,  to  leave  their 
occupations  and  vacate  their  offices  under  such  circum- 
stances, and  some  time  elapsed  before  the  police  reported 
to  me  that  all  but  the  firemen  had  been  ejected.  Alas,  there 
were  several  who  never  obeyed  the  summons,  as  subsequent 
events  were  only  too  clearly  to  show.  The  fight  now  con- 
tinued with  increased  persistence.  I  inspected  Nassau  and 
Cedar  Streets,  which,  being  to  leeward,  gave  me  some 
anxiety. 

Returning  to  the  Pine  Street  corner  of  Broadway,  I 
watched  for  a  few  moments  the  battle  which  was  being 
brilliantly  fought.  Never  did  men  struggle  harder  or  with 
greater  intelligence;  every  order  was  promptly  executed, 
but  notwithstanding  the  stubborn  attack  from  both  within 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    137 

and  without,  I  could  see  that  the  fire  was  slowly  gaining. 
Until  now  my  reports  from  inside  had  been  favourable,  but 
judging  from  external  conditions  I  had  grave  doubts  as  to 
whether  the  officer  in  charge  of  those  forces  had  correctly 
gauged  the  situation.  It  was  this  which  determined  me  to 
make  another  inspection  in  order  to  satisfy  myself.  Ac- 
companied by  Lieutenant  Rankin  and  Firemen  Henry  and 
Blessing,  I  proceeded  to  the  4th,  5th  and  6th  floors.  Chief 
Walsh  was  in  command  on  the  4th  floor,  and  Chiefs  Kuss 
and  Devanny  on  those  above.  Chief  Walsh  was  confident 
that  he  could  drive  the  fire  back  and  confine  it  to  the  Pine 
Street  side.  It  must  be  emphasized  that  the  conditions  were 
good ;  very  little  smoke  to  weaken  the  men  being  observable, 
as  it  was  driven  eastward  by  the  fierceness  of  the  gale. 
Followed  by  my  aides  I  returned  to  Pine  Street,  where  I 
found  that  the  granite  trimmings  on  the  dormer  windows  of 
the  upper  floors  were  beginning  to  fly.  This  told  me  at 
once  of  the  intense  heat  which  must  be  surrounding  the 
unprotected  iron  columns  of  which  mention  has  been  made, 
and,  in  consequence,  I  ordered  all  companies  to  back  down 
and  out  of  the  building. 

A  most  critical  stage  of  the  fire  had  now  been 
reached.  I  knew  well  that  within  a  few  minutes 
of  the  companies  inside  the  building  shutting  off 
their  streams  the  fire  would  gain  complete  mastery;  hence 
the  problem  was  to  get  the  men  out  and  into  position  with 
the  second  line  of  attack  which  had  now  become  defense. 
It  is  an  axiom  of  warfare  that  an  advance  is  easier  to  con- 
duct than  a  retreat.  With  such  a  furious  and  destructive 
enemy  as  fire,  the  task  is  even  more  hazardous.  Thus  it 
was  obvious  that  the  companies  on  the  upper  floors  should 
go  first,  while  their  comrades  on  the  lower  floors,  and  in 
less  exposed  positions,  held  the  flames  in  check  and  covered 
them  with  their  streams.  As  soon  as  the  latter  were  shut 
off  the  fire  burst  through  with  increased  fury,  but  was  met 
and  checked  by  the  lines  in  the  surrounding  buildings  re- 
inforced by  the  Nassau  Street  water  tower. 

As  a   further  precaution  the   Pine   Street  tower  was 


138  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

moved  to  the  corner  of  the  former  street,  ready  to  en- 
filade the  fire  and  throw  a  complete  water  curtain  across 
Nassau  Street  in  front  of  the  Fourth  National  Bank, 
should  such  a  manoeuvre  become  necessary.  The  time 
was  now  6.28  A.M.,  and  I  turned  in  a  fifth  alarm  and 
ordered  an  additional  25  pounds  on  the  high-pressure 
system.  I  had  now  23  engine  companies,  6  hook 
and  ladder  companies,  2  water  towers  and  a  force  of  275 
officers  and  men.  Lieutenant  Rankin  was  despatched  with 
a  second  order  that  the  men  in  the  Equitable  should  back 
down  and  get  out  with  all  speed,  bringing  their  lines  to  the 
Nassau  and  Cedar  Street  side,  which  was  the  quarter  by  far 
the  most  dangerously  exposed.  All  companies  had  now 
reached  the  main  staircase,  except  Engine  Company  4  and 
a  few  men  from  hook  and  ladder  i,  who,  under  the  direc- 
tion of  Battalion  Chief  Walsh,  were  fighting  obstinately 
and  receding  inch  by  inch.  For  the  third  time  I  sent  an 
order,  adding  that  it  was  imperative  that  he  and  his  men 
should  abandon  their  position,  which  had  become  untenable, 
and  leave  their  line. 

Walsh  received  the  message,  but  his  sense  of  se- 
curity, coupled  with  a  desire  to  have  one  last  bout  with 
his  foe,  caused  the  delay  which  brought  him  death.  A 
portion  of  the  roof  on  the  south  side  collapsed,  forcing  out 
part  of  the  wall  of  the  inner  court  and  burying  the  steps 
down  which  the  last  men  were  hurrying.  Before  this  catas- 
trophe had  occurred  the  companies  who  had  responded  on 
the  fifth  alarm  had  been  assigned  positions  in  the  buildings 
on  the  east  and  north,  where  they  connected  to  the  stand- 
pipes  and  threw  powerful  streams  into  the  upper  floors  of 
the  burning  structure.  Their  efforts  were  successful,  and 
at  this  point  the  flames  were  held  in  check. 

Captain  Farley,  of  Hook  and  Ladder  8,  now 
reported  to  me  that  he  and  his  men  had  removed 
Captain  Bass  and  some  members  of  Engine  Com- 
pany 4  and  Hook  and  Ladder  i  from  the  collapsed 
part  of  the  building.  I  then  ordered  a  roll-call  and 
discovered  that  Battalion  Chief  Walsh  was  missing.  A 


EQUITABLE  FIRE,  CORNER  OF  BROADWAY  AND  CEDAR  STREET. 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    139 

search  party  was  instituted  to  rescue  him,  but  failed  in  the 
attempt.  I  learned  that  as  Chief  Walsh  was  about  to  de- 
scend the  stairs  to  the  third  floor  the  unmistakable  rumble 
of  falling  walls  warned  him  of  his  danger.  Had  he  re- 
mained where  he  was  he  would  have  been  unscathed,  but 
he  sprang  over  the  rail  and  dashed  towards  a  door  on  the 
left  leading  to  Nassau  Street.  Could  he  have  reached  it  he 
would  have  cheated  fate,  as  did  two  of  his  comrades;  but 
he  was  buried  in  the  wreckage  within  two  feet  of  safety. 
Never  have  I  known  a  man  more  enthusiastically  devoted 
to  his  calling;  it  was  the  breath  of  his  existence.  Brave 
as  a  lion,  and  loving  a  fight  for  its  own  sake,  he  constantly 
studied  to  increase  his  technical  skill.  It  was  my  knowledge 
of  the  man,  of  his  bulldog  grit  and  determination  to  con- 
quer or  die,  that  caused  me  to  be  so  insistent  in  my  com- 
mands to  him  to  leave  his  post  of  danger.  His  heroic  spirit 
was  shown  in  his  last  action.  Aware  of  the  peril,  he  called 
to  Captain  Bass,  of  Engine  Company  4,  "Go  at  once.  Save 
yourself  and  your  men,"  and  he  remained  to  add  one  more 
name  to  the  roll  of  those  who  have  died  nobly  in  harness. 
It  was  now  that  the  full  force  of  the  millions  of  gallons 
of  water  began  to  tell.  The  water  tower  in  Nassau  Street 
was  sending  forth  a  heavy  stream  through  the  two-inch 
mast  nozzle  at  a  pressure  of  120  pounds  to  the  square  inch, 
supplied  by  the  high-pressure  main  in  Maiden  Lane.  This 
was  directed  against  the  flames  roaring  through  the  Law- 
yers' Club  on  the  fourth  floor,  while  from  the  roof  of  the 
bank  across  Nassau  Street,  Acting  Battalion  Chief  Kelly 
was  performing  admirable  service.  On  the  south,  Battalion 
Chief  Rush  had  availed  himself  of  the  stand-pipes  in  the 
buildings  and  was  using  our  steamers  in  conjunction  with 
the  house  pumps,  thus  being  able  to  obtain  a  considerable 
pressure.  The  same  plan  was  carried  into  effect  in  Cedar 
Street,  and  every  exposed  point  was  covered  on  all  sides. 
I  was  congratulating  myself  that  we  were  masters  of  the 
situation  when  the  fury  of  the  gale  increased.  Gusts  of 
wind,  attaining  a  velocity  of  seventy  miles  an  hour,  swept 
across  the  open  space  formed  by  Trinity  graveyard  at  the 


i4o  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

southwest  side  of  Broadway,  and  the  mercury  fell  steadily 
and  remorselessly.  So  intense  became  the  cold  that  drip- 
ping walls  turned  to  ice  and  the  streets  were  frozen  lakes, 
while  enormous  volumes  of  water  were  turned  to  spray  by 
the  wind  a  few  feet  from  the  nozzle.  Men  were  repeatedly 
thrown  down  in  their  efforts  to  cross  the  path  of  this  hurri- 
cane, and  I  myself  was  taken  from  my  feet  not  once  but 
twenty  times,  and  dashed  against  the  wall  of  the  building 
where  I  stood.  The  Equitable  now  resembled  a  volcano  in 
eruption.  Great  masses  of  granite  from  its  walls  were 
being  tossed  high  in  the  air  like  thistledown  and  exploding 
a  hundred  feet  above  our  heads  from  the  intense  heat,  their 
fragments  falling  in  meteoric  showers  about  us.  A  great 
section  of  the  outer  wall  burst  near  the  corner  of  Pine 
Street  and  Broadway,  and  a  piece  of  stone  weighing  several 
tons  fell  near  Mr.  Robert  Mainzer,  with  whom  I  had  been 
speaking,  missing  him  by  only  a  few  inches.  I  then  closed 
that  side  of  Pine  Street,  even  forbidding  firemen  to  pass 
along  it.  The  intense  cold  seemed  to  give  the  flames  a 
peculiar  glow,  while  the  high  wind  spread  them  fanwise, 
flickering  and  beckoning  over  the  ice-bound  streets.  There 
comes  a  time  in  a  fire  of  this  description,  which  marks  the 
beginning  of  the  end.  If  outside  exposures  are  properly 
protected  there  can  be  no  possibility  of  any  increase  in  the 
conflagration,  and  it  will  be  confined  to  the  smallest  possible 
space.  Then  one  of  two  things  will  occur;  either  the  con- 
tents of  the  building  will  burn  out,  leaving  no  food  for  the 
flames ;  or  it  will  fall.  Should  this  latter  contingency  seem 
imminent,  men  must  be  kept  at  a  safe  distance  from  the 
walls,  and  judgment  must  be  used  to  determine  what  is  the 
limit  of  danger.  Sometimes  a  wall  will  fall  outwards  at 
full  length  as  though  on  hinges,  covering  the  width  of  a 
street;  then  again  it  will  collapse,  break  in  the  middle  and 
fall  in  a  heap  like  a  house  of  cards.  Needless  to  say,  the 
first  of  these  two  conditions  is  the  most  dangerous  in  all 
respects,  and  must  be  guarded  against  at  any  hazard.  In 
the  event  of  a  simple  collapse  the  fire  has  then  passed  the 
crisis,  and  as  soon  as  this  occurs  men  can  immediately  be 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    141 

advanced  to  close  range  without  special  danger.  The  roof 
and  floors  of  the  Equitable  Building  were  heavy,  and  the 
intensity  of  the  heat  was  so  great  that  I  feared  it  would 
expand  and  force  the  outer  walls.  Under  such  weather 
conditions  as  existed,  and  in  the  narrow  streets,  this  would 
have  been  a  serious  matter,  and  every  nerve  was  strained 
to  its  utmost  to  drive  the  fire  back  and  to  hold  it  in  the 
centre  of  the  building.  This  attempt  was  crowned  with 
success,  due  not  only  to  the  powerful  apparatus  at  my  dis- 
posal, but  to  the  intelligent  and,  in  many  cases,  brilliant 
operations  of  both  officers  and  men. 

A  fire  chief  can  never  tell  what  may  happen  from  one 
minute  to  the  next,  and  fires  bring  many  surprises  in  their 
train  which  call  for  quick  action  of  mind  and  body  on  the 
part  of  the  officer  in  command.  This  day  was  to  prove  no 
exception  to  the  rule.  Just  as  I  felt  that  the  fight  was  won, 
and  was  expecting  an  inward  collapse  of  the  floors  on  the 
Broadway  side  of  the  building,  word  was  brought  that  three 
men  were  on  the  roof  overlooking  that  street  and  calling 
piteously  for  help.  After  all  my  efforts  to  clear  the  build- 
ing it  seemed  impossible  that  anyone  could  have  remained 
within  its  precincts.  And  yet  these  poor  cleaners  and  por- 
ters had  defied  a  command  and  had  pitted  their  judgment 
against  scientific  knowledge,  with  the  result  that  they  had 
been  driven  to  the  roof,  where  we  could  see  them  standing. 
To  reach  them  on  that  spot  over  100  feet  from  the  ground, 
when  the  possibility  of  a  collapse  had  become  imminent, 
was  a  task  to  test  the  nerves  of  the  strongest  and  the  bravest 
of  men.  That  an  attempt  at  rescue  was  fraught  with  great 
danger  to  all  concerned  I  had  not  the  slightest  doubt,  but 
it  is  the  duty  of  men  on  such  occasions  to  brave  death  and 
even  to  defy  it.  All  chances  were  against  them.  Momen- 
tarily I  was  expecting  an  avalanche  of  bricks,  stone  and 
burning  embers;  the  fierce  gale  swept  strong  men  from 
their  feet,  and  the  spray  from  the  nozzles  froze  on  their 
faces  until  they  could  scarcely  see.  In  spite  of  these  con- 
ditions the  men  responded  to  my  call  without  hesitation. 
A  hook  and  ladder  truck  was  swung  in  on  the  northwest 


142  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

corner  of  Cedar  Street,  and  in  less  than  one  minute  the 
extension  ladder  had  been  raised.  As  I  stood  at  its  foot  I 
did  not  have  a  chance  to  ask  for  volunteers  or  to  order  any 
men  to  this  terrible  duty.  On  the  instant  Lieutenant  Ran- 
kin,  Firemen  Molloy  and  Blessing  sprang  on  the  rungs, 
taking  scaling  ladders  with  them.  In  the  meantime  I  could 
see  that  it  would  be  a  most  difficult  undertaking  to  scale 
the  Equitable  Building  on  account  of  the  projecting  cornice, 
and  I  therefore  ordered  Acting  Chief  Kelly  and  the  offi- 
cers and  men  of  Hook  and  Ladder  i  to  proceed  to  the  ninth 
floor  of  the  building  on  the  north  side  of  Cedar  Street  with 
the  gun,  roof  rope  and  life  line.  If  the  line  could  be  shot 
true  against  such  a  gale  it  might  serve  two  purposes,  for  it 
would  be  ready  for  use  by  the  men  ascending  the  ladder,  or, 
if  this  attempt  failed,  the  captives  could  make  the  line  fast 
to  some  projection  and  slide  down  to  possible  safety.  The 
shot  was  aimed  and  the  line  fell  true.  We  could  see  the 
men  in  the  act  of  hauling  it  across  the  space  when  the  ex- 
pected" happened.  The  great  collapse  came.  With  a  cry  of 
agony  and  despair  the  unfortunates  sprang  out  into  the  air, 
and  as  they  plunged  downwards  there  came  with  them  the 
roof  and  upper  floors.  From  my  position  I  at  first  thought 
the  bodies  were  those  of  the  brave  fellows  who  had  so 
nobly  gone  to  the  rescue,  and  though  they  struck  the  street 
a  few  feet  from  where  I  stood,  and  though  fire,  smoke  and 
debris  were  on  all  sides,  for  an  instant  I  felt  indifferent  to 
my  own  fate.  Then  I  realized  that  other  lives  and  vast 
treasures  were  at  stake,  and  that  at  this  moment  my  life 
was  of  value  to  the  city. 

Turning  around,  I  walked  slowly  to  the  centre  of 
Broadway,  and  from  this  point  I  could  see  that 
the  men  who  had  ascended  the  ladder  were  alive. 
Blessing  was  on  the  ladder,  Rankin  had  one  foot  on  the 
ledge,  and  Molloy  was  standing  on  the  highest  ledge  of  the 
broken  and  badly  bulging  wall.  Their  efforts  had  been  in 
vain,  but  heroism  could  have  been  put  to  no  greater  test. 
My  relief  was  great  when  I  saw  them  descend  unhurt.  And 
now  horror  succeeded  horror  with  incredible  rapidity. 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    143 

Scarcely  had  the  unfortunate  creatures  who  had  jumped 
from  the  roof  been  .removed  from  the  street,  when  Fire 
Commissioner  Johnson  told  me  that  he  had  been  informed 
that  there  were  men  imprisoned  in  the  .vaults  on 
the  Broadway  side.  The  windows  of  these  vaults 
were  protected  by  bars  of  iron  two  inches  in  thickness,  and 
were  inset  at  such  close  intervals  that  no  human  body  could 
possibly  pass  between  them.  I  soon  found  that  this  in- 
formation was  correct,  for  there,  caught  in  a  fiery  prison, 
were  three  men;  two  living,  pinned  down  by  broken  floor 
joists,  and  one  dead,  killed  by  a  falling  beam.  With  a  rag- 
ing fire  behind  them,  a  raging  fire  over  them,  heavy  iron 
bars  in  front,  and  broken  and  tottering  walls  on  every  side, 
their  predicament  was  a  terrible  one. 

"Save  them,  save  them,"  was  the  cry  from  men 
who  stood  at  a  distance.  But  this  seemed  to  be 
impossible.  I  directed  two  companies  with  sledges 
and  other  heavy  tools  to  try  and  wrench  the  bars. 
In  addition,  though  scarcely  to  be  mentioned  in 
comparison  with  these  precious  lives,  there  was  a  billion 
dollars'  worth  of  security  in  the  vaults,  and  the  fire  threat- 
ened both  with  speedy  destruction.  Fully  realizing  the 
gravity  of  the  conditions,  and  wishing  to  obtain  a  better 
view  of  the  situation,  I  took  the  elevator  to  the  eighteenth 
floor  of  the  Trinity  Building  directly  across  Broadway. 
When  I  reached  the  front  window  overlooking  the  Equit- 
able an  awe-inspiring  scene  met  my  gaze.  Beneath  me  lay 
a  seething,  boiling  cauldron.  The  very  earth  seemed  to 
vomit  forth  flames  and  send  up  from  its  depths  mammoth 
tongues  of  fire.  Parts  of  chairs,  desks  and  boards  were 
being  hurled  like  pebbles  five  hundred  feet  into  the  air. 
Only  the  pen  of  Dante  or  the  brush  of  Verestchagin  could 
do  it  justice.  But  the  question  for  me  to  decide  was 
whether  the  Broadway  front  would  hold,  or  whether  it 
would  collapse  burying  the  entombed  men  and  the  com- 
panies trying  to  effect  their  rescue.  After  careful  survey  I 
determined  that  the  walls  would  stand,  but  to  ensure  this  I 
ordered  that  a  strong  stream  of  water  from  the  Trinity 


144  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

Building  be  employed  to  reduce  the  expansion  by  forcing 
the  fire  back  at  this  point. 

About  this  time  I  resolved  to  transmit  the  bor- 
ough call,  feeling  that  additional  aid  was  necessary  prop- 
erly to  protect  the  vaults  and  the  men  imprisoned  therein. 
It  was  also  advisable  to  have  a  greater  number  of  powerful 
streams  on  the  leeward  side  of  the  fire,  although  up  to  this 
time  I  had  been  able  to  hold  it  in  check.  Now  the  time 
seemed  to  have  arrived  for  an  advance,  and  this  my  lines 
were  unable  to  accomplish.  All  these  conditions  made  the 
borough  call  a  necessity,  and  the  alarm  7-7-24-3-3-39  was 
transmitted.  Translated  into  plain  English  this  meant  that 
the  companies  assigned  to  respond  on  the  third  alarm  to 
Box  39,  Borough  of  Brooklyn,  would  proceed  to  Box  24, 
Borough  of  Manhattan. 

The  Brooklyn  companies  arrived  promptly  in  charge  of 
Deputy  Chief  Lally,  and  were  assigned  to  positions  with 
the  exception  of  the  water  tower,  which  was  not  needed 
and  was  sent  back  to  quarters.  Two  engines  were  connect- 
ed to  the  Siamese  inlet  on  the  front  of  the  Trinity  Building 
and  2 YZ -inch  lines  of  hose  attached  to  the  stand-pipe  out- 
lets on  the  7th,  8th,  9th  and  loth  floors.  These  were  all 
stretched  to  the  8th  floor  and  connected  in  pairs  by  means 
of  2j^-  to  3-inch  Siamese,  then  a  length  of  3-inch  hose  was 
connected  to  each  of  these,  and  in  turn  to  a  3-inch  Siamese 
Leading  from  this  was  a  length  of  3-inch  hose  having  a 
I  y% -inch  nozzle.  This  provided  a  pressure  of  130  pound* 
at  the  nozzle,  with  260  pounds  on  each  engine,  and  had  less 
friction  than  if  any  other  method  had  been  employed. 

Now  began  the  battle  for  life  and  treasure.  Hack-saw: 
were  procured,  and  for  almost  an  hour  Engineer  Larke 
assisted  by  Rankin,  Henry  and  others,  sawed  at  the  bars 
while  great  masses  of  stone  fell  from  the  upper  stories 
around  the  workers.  One  great  fragment  rebounded  anc 
struck  Larke  in  the  back,  almost  paralyzing  him.  Rankii 
now  took  the  hack-saw  and  cut  through  the  remaining 
bars,  so  that  ropes  could  be  attached  and  the  opening  suffi- 
ciently enlarged  to  admit  of  the  passage  of  a  body. 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    145 

One  of  the  men  was  taken  out  suffering  from  smoke, 
exposure  and  shock.  But  the  other  cried,  "For  God's  sake 
don't  leave  me,  my  arm  is  fast!"  Upon  examination,  it 
was  found  that  his  arm  was  pinned  across  the  back  of  the 
dead  man  by  two  iron  beams,  and  for  15  minutes  Henry 
and  his  comrades,  using  crowbars,  pried  and  pulled,  assisted 
by  the  man  himself,  before  his  release  was  effected.  When 
free  he  collapsed,  and  was  taken  across  Broadway,  where 
he  joined  his  companion  under  the  care  of  Dr.  H.  M. 
Archer,  who  gave  them  every  attention  that  humanity  and 
science  could  suggest. 

By  this  time  the  fire  was  well  under  control  on  the  north 
and  east,  and  all  danger  of  its  crossing  Cedar  and  Nassau 
Streets  had  passed.  I  now  called  a  boat  tender  and 
stretched  3^ -inch  hose  from  the  high-pressure  hydrants 
to  the  Broadway  front  of  the  building.  Three-inch  lines 
were  also  taken  from  the  water  tower  into  the  Cedar  Street 
buildings  opposite  the  vaults  and  company  lines  were 
siamesed  in  order  that  heavier  streams  could  be  forced 
against  the  gale  which  still  increased.  This  method  was  in 
operation  on  the  roof  of  the  Clearing  House,  where  it  was 
most  effective. 

A  peculiar  phenomenon  of  this  fire  was  that  it  worked 
steadily  to  windward  against  the  furious  gale,  and  it  seemed 
as  though  determined  to  destroy  the  enormous  wealth  con- 
tained in  the  vaults.  All  our  forces  were  now  concentrated 
to  prevent  such  a  catastrophe  and  also  to  prevent  the  crema- 
tion of  the  lifeless  companion  of  the  two  men  we  had  res- 
cued. Owing  to  the  magnitude  of  our  attack  the  securities 
were  untouched  and  unharmed,  the  walls,  which  were 
badly  cracked  and  out  of  plumb,  remained  standing,  and 
the  corpse  was  not  incinerated.  Cautiously  we  now  closed 
in  and  the  fight  was  over.  There  is  one  incident  which  I 
must  mention,  as  it  serves  to  show  the  hold  sport  maintains 
upon  its  votaries  even  in  moments  of  the  greatest  strain. 
Mr.  August  Belmont  came  to  me  and  asked  permission  to 
go  through  his  offices,  which,  facing  the  east  had  to  a  large 
extent  escaped  the  great  damage  experienced  elsewhere. 


146  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

I  personally  went  with  him  through  the  ruins  of  his  once 
beautiful  suite  of  business  premises,  now  sadly  spoiled  by 
water  and  fire.  He  then  explained  to  me  that  his  chief 
fear  was  lest  harm  should  have  come  to  the  records  and 
pedigrees  of  his  horses,  which  of  course  are  famous  not 
only  in  America  but  wherever  racing  is  popular.  I  am 
happy  to  say  that  I  found  them  intact,  and  with  a  smile 
he  tucked  them  under  his  arm  and  bade  me  a  cheery 
good-day. 

Another  fact  which  I  take  pride  in  recalling  was  that 
of  the  gallantry  shown  by  Father  Joseph  P.  Dineen,  who, 
at  the  risk  of  his  life,  conveyed  the  Sacrament  to  one  of 
the  men  afterwards  rescued  from  the  vault,  this  at  a 
moment  when  all  onlookers  feared  the  worst,  and  no  man 
would  have  been  considered  a  coward  for  hesitating. 
Some  idea  of  the  magnitude  of  the  operations  can  be 
gleaned  from  the  following  statistics.  Eighty-five  officers 
and  about  five  hundred  men  operated  thirty-one  steam 
engines,  ten  hook  and  ladder  trucks,  two  water  towers,  and 
superintended  the  high  pressure  service,  while  the  water 
used  in  the  attack  amounted  approximately  to  twelve  mil- 
lion gallons.  During  the  progress  of  the  fire,  all  business 
in  Wall  street  was  suspended  and  anxiety  reigned  in  twc 
continents  as  to  the  fate  of  the  billion  dollars'  worth  oi 
securities  in  the  strong  rooms.  It  speaks  volumes  for  the 
skill  of  the  fire-fighters  that  not  one  dollar's  worth  of  dam- 
age was  done  in  that  direction  and  that  when  recovered  the 
papers  were  not  even  discoloured.  The  outstanding  fea- 
tures of  this  remarkable  fire  were  the  tremendous  value 
of  the  property  at  stake,  the  extraordinary  climatic  con- 
ditions, and  the  possibility  of  the  spread  of  the  flames: 
which  would  have  caused  a  disaster  unparalleled  in  the  an- 
nals of  history,  so  stupendous  would  have  been  th£  financial 
loss. 

In  addition  to  this,  the  construction  of  the  building  con- 
cerned was  something  of  a  revelation  to  all  thinking  per- 
sons; for  the  weakness  of  the  columns  supporting  the  roof 
was  so  glaringly  apparent  even  to  the  lay  mind  that  those 


Ni. 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    147 

responsible  for  its  erection  must  have  been  either  hopeless- 
ly incompetent  or  criminally  careless.  Further,  owing  to 
the  age  of  the  structure  and  the  idiosyncrasies  of  some  of 
its  tenants,  it  was  a  literal  rabbit  warren  of  private  stair- 
cases ending  in  cul-de-sacs  and  narrow  passages  leading 
nowhere  in  particular.  The  only  marvel,  in  fact,  appears 
to  have  been  that  the  loss  of  life  was  not  greater,  for  it 
was  only  too  easy  for  the  firemen  operating  to  lose  their 
way  in  the  intricacy  of  its  mazes. 

I  must  not  fail  to  compliment  the  Police  Department 
on  its  excellent  work  in  the  keeping  of  the  "Fire  Lines," 
this  work  being  exceedingly  difficult,  owing  to  the  extreme 
exposure  and  extraordinary  conditions  prevailing. 

It  is  pleasant  to  record  that  financiers  and  others  of 
wealth  and  prominence  with  offices  adjacent  sufficiently 
recognized  the  self-sacrificing  devotion  of  the  Department 
in  subscribing  the  sum  of  $185,000,  the  interest  of  which 
was  to  be  used  in  perpetuity  for  the  benefit  of  widows  and 
orphans  of  firemen  and  policemen  killed  in  the  discharge 
of  their  duty. 


CHAPTER  XI 

GREAT   FIRES,  AND  HOW   THEY   WERE   FOUGHT 

PART  II 

THERE  occur  at  intervals  in  the  history  of  the  world,  ca- 
lamities occasioned  partially  by  fire  of  which  it  is  almost  im- 
possible to  give  a  concise  narrative,  or  upon  which  either  to 
pass  criticism  or  apportion  blame.  In  other  words,  when 
fate  or  destiny,  or  call  it  what  you  will,  takes  a  hand  in  the 
game,  human  ingenuity,  science,  and  forethought  can  only 
play  subsidiary  roles  in  dealing  the  cards.  The  Baltimore 
fire  was  destructive  of  property,  the  Equitable  teemed  with 
terrible  possibilities  and  gave  scope  for  the  most  modern 
fire  strategy  that  probably  the  world  has  yet  seen,  but  the 
conflagration  in  San  Francisco  formed  an  upheaval  of 
primal  elements  which,  in  their  magnitude,  stand  alone  in 
history,  and  yet  show  that  dogged  perseverance  inborn  in 
the  fire-fighter,  which  sooner  or  later  surmounts  the  greatest 
obstacles. 

On  April  17,  1906,  San  Francisco  was  one  of  the 
happiest,  grandest,  most  popular  of  cities  in  the  United 
States.  Within  twelve  hours  a  large  portion  was  in  ruins, 
within  twenty-four  it  was  a  mass  of  belching  flames,  and 
within  thirty-six  the  lamentations  of  its  inhabitants  had 
penetrated  to  the  most  remote  quarters  of  the  globe.  To 
epitomize  this  ghastly  debacle.  On  Wednesday,  April  i8th, 
an  earthquake  shock  occurred,  doing  considerable  damage, 
so  badly  crippling  the  water  mains  that,  though  their  supply 
was  rated  at  36,000,000  gallons  a  day,  not  only  was  the 
fire  department  unable  to  obtain  the  wherewithal  with 
which  to  attack  the  ensuing  fires,  but  so  scarce  became  this 

148 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    149 

necessity  of  human  life  that  it  is  credibly  reported  that  at 
one  period  it  was  being  retailed  to  thirsty  thousands  at  fab- 
ulous sums  per  cup.  This  conflagration  destroyed  2,831 
acres  of  business  and  dwelling  houses,  and  caused  losses  to 
the  insurance  companies  concerned  of  approximately  300,- 
000,000  dollars.  Needless  to  say,  it  is  impossible  to  deter- 
mine the  number,  location  or  causes  of  the  original  out- 
breaks. All  that  can  be  definitely  stated  is  that  the  fire 
alarms  at  headquarters  were  completely  dislocated  by  the 
earthquake  shocks,  that  the  building  in  question  was  subse- 
quently burned,  that  the  telephone  service  became  completely 
disorganized  and  that  doubtless  many  unsuccessful  attempts 
were  made  to  apprise  the  fire  department  of  the  need  of 
its  services.  All  that  can  be  hazarded  is  that,  within  half 
an  hour  of  the  commencements  of  the  outbreaks,  there  must 
have  been  twelve  distinct  and  separate  fires  needing  atten- 
tion. Roughly,  in  order  to  give  some  idea  of  the  operations 
involved,  it  may  be  stated  that  the  centre  of  the  fire  zone 
was  an  eminence  known  as  Nob  Hill.  Thence  one  por- 
tion of  the  city  was  involved  eastwards  to  the  waterfront, 
taking  in  Chinatown  and  the  Latin  Quarter  en  route;  a 
second  spread  in  a  southwesterly  direction  through  the  busi- 
ness section  and  menaced  the  wharves  and  ferries;  while 
the  third,  originating  in  the  Mission  district  to  the  west  of 
Nob  Hill,  burnt  its  way  steadily  towards  the  Union  Iron 
Works,  where  at  that  time  were  building  two  battleships 
for  the  United  States  Navy.  Before  dealing  in  such 
detail  as  is  possible  with  the  incidental  operations  of  the  fire 
department,  it  may  be  said  that  the  fire  force,  including  re- 
serves, consisted  of  some  600  men,  53  engines,  15  ladder 
trucks,  9  chemical  engines  and  2  fire-boats  maintained  by 
the  Harbour  Commissioners.  One  of  the  fire-boats  had  a 
capacity  of  1,400  gallons  per  minute  and  the  other  930,  both 
with  a  water  pressure  of  150  pounds.  Of  the  77,000  feet 
of  leading  hose,  nearly  38,000  feet  were  lost,  or  over  one- 
half ;  while  3  engines  and  a  ladder  were  disabled  beyond 
repair.  Fire  Chief  Sullivan  was  unfortunately  injured  at 
the  outset  and  died  before  he  had  formulated  a  plan  of  at- 


150  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

tack.  This  comprehends  the  total  casualities  to  men  and 
material  in  the  department  during  the  entire  conflagration, 
a  remarkably  small  percentage  of  the  whole,  and  it  is  a  fair 
supposition  that  had  the  means  of  regular  communication 
been  open  and  had  water  been  obtainable  during  the  early 
hours  of  the  disaster,  and  having  also  due  regard  for  the 
lightness  of  the  wind  and  its  direction,  the  fire  department 
would  have  obtained  control  by  noon  of  the  first  day. 

During  the  first  period,  that  is  to  say  until  Wednesday 
night,  the  fire  appears  to  have  been  spasmodic  and  did  not 
possess  the  nature  of  a  fierce,  sweeping  blast.  The  ordinary 
rules  of  exposure  seemed  to  have  prevailed,  and  a  leading 
part  was  played  by  familiar  factors,  such  as  individual  com- 
bustibility, adjacency,  opposing  openings,  short  distances 
and  excess  height.  Some  notable  cases  of  defense  are 
worthy  of  comment,  such  as  that  of  the  U.  S.  Mint,  an  old 
building  far  behind  modern  standards  of  fire  resistance. 
Superintendent  Leach,  of  the  fire  department,  rallied  his 
men  and,  assisted  by  some  regular  soldiers,  beat  the  fire  off 
in  a  manner  worthy  of  the  highest  commendation.  An- 
other remarkable  effort  was  that  made  by  the  employees 
of  the  Post  Office  to  save  that  structure.  As  the  flames 
attacked  through  windows  broken  by  the  heat,  everything 
igniting  was  extinguished  in  detail.  The  officials  fought 
most  gallantly,  and  three  days  later,  when  it  was  possible 
once  again  to  obtain  access  to  the  building,  eleven  postal 
clerks,  who  had  been  seventy-two  hours  without  food  or 
water,  were  rescued,  together  with  the  whole  of  the  mail 
of  which  they  had  been  in  charge. 

Late  in  the  afternoon,  the  great  twenty-one  story 
Spreckels  Building  ignited,  through  broken  windows 
on  the  fourth  floor,  from  fires  started  in  two 
small  frame  buildings  adjacent  to  it.  This  pro- 
vided one  of  the  most  spectacular  scenes  of  the  whole 
outbreak.  Enormous  crowds  watched  the  dull  red  glow 
mount  floor  by  floor,  till  it  reached  the  ornate  three-tiered 
dome  surmounting  this  edifice.  The  circular  windows 
therein  seemed  to  shine  like  moons  for  some  moments,  then 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT   151 

followed  a  thousand  spurts  of  flame  as  the  floors  collapsed, 
and,  as  darkness  closed  around,  men  and  women  wailed 
hysterically  thus  to  see  the  pride  of  their  city  so  remorse- 
lessly destroyed.  As  for  the  Palace  Hotel,  its  doom 
was  sealed  early  in  the  afternoon.  A  fine  attempt  was 
made  by  its  staff,  assisted  by  some  of  the  guests  to 
resist  the  enemy,  but  the  protection  of  a  hundred 
odd  closely  attacked  and  wooden-framed  windows  and  a 
vulnerable  roof  swamped  them,  and  the  hotel  was  aban- 
doned. 

Shortly  after  this  commenced  the  extensive  use 
of  explosives  which  figured  so  prominently  in  this 
conflagration.  It  is  not  surprising  that  men  re-"~~ 
duced  to  helplessness  and  desperation  by  lack  of 
water  should  have  resorted  to  what  has  been  proved 
in  all  modern  fires  to  be  useless,  and,  in  the  opinion  of  the 
writer,  even  harmful.  As  is  usually  the  case,  the  explosions 
made  no  effective  gaps  and  rather  served  to  increase  the 
quantity  of  combustible  material.  On  the  other  hand,  win- 
dows throughout  the  neighbourhood  were  shattered,  the 
proximity  of  exploding  buildings  made  it  dangerous  for 
owners  to  prosecute  individual  efforts  towards  the  protec- 
tion of  their  own  property,  and  it  would  appear  that  the 
choice  of  location  for  this  desperate  expedient  was  both 
haphazard  and  unintelligent.  The  situation  when  Wednes- 
day night  arrived  is  important  to  realize.  Until  now  the 
rich  business  district,  north  of  Market  Street,  and  the  high- 
class  residential  area  were  untouched.  It  was  still  possible 
to  maintain  communication  and  to  conduct  organized  oppo- 
sition, since  the  centre  of  the  city  was  yet  habitable.  But 
human  nature  had  become  exhausted ;  questions  of  life  be- 
came paramount  to  those  of  property,  so  that  upon  the  di- 
rection of  the  wind  depended  the  future.  Alas,  during  the 
evening  the  breeze,  for  it  was  little  more,  veered  southward 
and  increased  just  sufficiently  to  level  the  sweep  of  flame 
and  render  leeward  positions  untenable.  The  huge  frame 
of  the  Mechanics  Pavilion  was  transformed  into  a  roaring 
pyre  and  the  upslope  towards  Russian  Hill  perceptibly  in- 


152  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

creased  the  vulnerability  of  the  district.  From  now  on- 
wards the  spread  of  the  flames  was  more  rapid,  and  they 
greedily  ate  their  way  along  O'Farrell  Street  devouring  in 
turn  theatres,  hotels,  clubs,  stores  and  apartment  houses. 
Higher  buildings,  like  the  Crocker,  felt  the  blast  of  the  in- 
tense heat  in  their  upper  stories  and  caught  fire  ahead  of 
their  time.  Fireproof  buildings,  like  the  Mills  and  the  Mer- 
chants' Exchange,  which  during  the  day  had  proved  bul- 
warks of  safety,  became  involved  and  towards  midnight 
were  burning  like  beacon  flares. 

A  most  desperate  stand  was  now  made  around  the  Fair- 
mount  Hotel.  Sailors  from  a  revenue  cutter,  assisted  by 
firemen,  ran  a  three-quarter  mile  length  of  hose  from  their 
ship  to  the  building,  their  officers  with  drawn  revolvers  im- 
pressing civilian  bystanders  to  act  as  property  savers.  But 
all  to  no  purpose,  and  as  the  dawn  of  the  second  day  col- 
oured the  eastern  horizon  it  was  realized  that  not  only  the 
hotel  but  all  the  surrounding  wealthy  residences  were 
doomed.  During  that  Thursday  morning  the  wind  light- 
ened, and  now  blew  from  the  east  and  served  to  check  the 
advance  of  the  flames  which  threatened  the  Ferry  Building. 
It  confronted,  however,  the  defenders  with  a  fresh  and  even 
more  alarming  development — that  of  losing  the  only  closely 
inhabited  part  of  the  city  remaining — the  section  west  of 
Van  Ness  Avenue.  In  this  1 25-foot  street,  the  most  ex- 
traordinary efforts  had  been  resorted  to,  in  a  vain  attempt 
to  stop  the  ever  spreading  fires.  Beautiful  houses  were 
blown  to  atoms  by  dynamite,  while  the  artillery,  belonging 
to  the  military  garrison,  had  carried  on  a  steady  and  re- 
morseless bombardment  with  high  explosive  shells.  The 
neighbourhood  was  an  inferno;  above  the  crackling  of  the 
flames  -  resounded  the  dull  boom  of  bursting  shrapnel  and 
the  cries  of  terror-stricken  men  and  women,  while  a  canopy 
of  green-gray  smoke  slowly  spread  upwards  marking  the 
positions  of  the  targets.  Yet  all  this  only  served  to  provide 
fresh  fuel  for  the  oncoming  conflagration.  Some  check  was 
doubtless  afforded  by  these  drastic  measures,  but  the  in- 
vader still  advanced  westward.  On  the  Friday  morning, 


II 


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GREAT  FIRES—HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    153 

the  third  day  of  the  fire,  the  east  wind  happily  dropped  and 
was  succeeded  by  a  strong  westerly  breeze  which,  within 
the  course  of  a  few  hours,  shifted  between  northwest  and 
southwest,  the  former  driving  the  flames  into  the  Latin 
Quarter  and  destroying  the  frame  houses  comprising  it  like 
so  many  dry  leaves,  and  the  remarkable  sight  was  wit- 
nessed of  thousands  of  barrels  of  wine  being  stove  in  with 
the  vain  hope  that  the  liquor  might  be  used  to  stay  the  ap- 
proaching cataclysm.     Forces  concentrated  near  the  Mer- 
chants' Ice  and  Cold  Storage  Co.,  with  the  assistance  of  a 
city  engine,  and  using  the  company's  own  water  supply,  at 
this  point  won  a  victory  over  the  flames.     Individual  work 
also  saved  an  isolated  and  somewhat  scattered  group  of 
high  class  dwellings  on  the  precipitous  summit  of  Russian 
Hill.    The  conflagration  had  thus  lasted  three  days,  and  on 
the  Saturday  morning  a  heavy  rain  did  much  to  bring  the 
situation  under  control.     A  few  smouldering  blazes  along 
the  east  water  front  occasionally  flared  up,  endangering  un- 
burnt  structures,  but  were,  however,  promptly  suppressed. 
Vigorous  and  effective  measures  were  now  taken  to  prevent 
new  outbreaks  in  the  uninjured  districts  where,  owing  to 
the  earthquake,  chimneys,  gaspipes  and  electric  wiring  were 
generally  in  an  unsafe  condition,  and  where  the  scant  water 
supply  rendered  the  situation  most  precarious.     No  time 
was  lost  in  destroying  dangerous  walls,  and  it  is  worthy  of 
comment  that  explosives  were  again  used  to  an  exceptional 
degree  in  this  work,  causing  unnecessary  additional  damage 
in   some  places   and,    unfortunately,    quickly   terminating 
many  opportunities  for  distinguishing  the  true  effects  of 
the  fire.    Thus,  within  the  burnt  area  of  2,831  acres  there 
survived  in  a  partially  habitable  condition:    firstly,  three 
groups  of  buildings,  i.  e.,  the  detached  dwellings  on  Russian 
Hill,  some  warehouses  at  the  foot  of  Telegraph  Hill  and  a 
mercantile  group  near  the  Custom  House.     Secondly,  one 
factory  plant — the  Western  Electric  Company.     Thirdly, 
three  government  buildings — the  Mint,  the  Post  Office  and 
the  Appraisers  Building.    Fourthly,  two  fire-resisting  office 
buildings — the  Hayward,  with  a  three-story  building  ad- 


154  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

joining,  and  the  Atlas  Building,  with  a  two-story  structure 
adjacent  to  it. 

Such  is  a  brief  description  of  the  conflagration  which 
devastated  San  Francisco  and  necessitated  without  exag- 
geration the  foundation  of  a  new  city.  The  narrative  has 
been  shorn  of  anything  that  might  detract  from  a  realiza- 
tion of  the  factors  which  governed  the  actual  situation, 
though  naturally  it  goes  without  saying  that  incidents  of 
interest,  humorous,  pathetic  and  tragic  abound. 

As  in  all  great  crises,  the  behaviour  of  those  concerned 
varied  according  to  temperament  and  circumstance,  but, 
generally  speaking,  there  was  little  real  panic,  and  on  all 
sides  was  observable  a  tendency  to  make  the  best  of  things 
and  incidentally  to  help  others  to  do  likewise.  At  first  peo- 
ple were  so  stunned  that  they  scarcely  realized  what  was 
passing,  as  was  evidenced  by  one  stranger  to  the  town,  who, 
making  his  way  to  safety,  was  accosted  by  a  rough  who 
demanded  his  purse.  He  surrendered  it  without  demur,  but 
the  hold-up  had  been  observed  by  an  officer  in  command  of 
some  soldiers.  Martial  law  having  been  declared,  the  thief 
was  shot  dead  on  sight.  Afterwards,  being  asked  to  give 
evidence  regarding  the  shooting,  the  victim  of  the  assault 
was  found  to  have  forgotten  everything  about  it  and  re- 
marked that  he  was  so  bewildered  that  anything  seemed 
quite  natural.  This  curious  mental  effect  was  by  no  means 
uncommon,  and  no  doubt  indirectly  exerted  an  influence 
against  any  access  of  unreasoning  and  overwhelming  ter- 
ror which  would  have  rendered  the  exertions  of  the  au- 
thorities practically  abortive.  A  story,  dramatic  in  its  sheer 
horror,  was  related  by  a  doctor  who  reported  that  he  had 
found  a  man  pinned  under  debris  and  suffering  the  most 
horrible  torture,  the  while  calling  loudly  for  some  one  to 
put  him  out  of  his  misery.  After  consultation,  a  police 
officer  drew  his  revolver  and  fired  at  the  sufferer,  but  being 
presumably  unnerved,  the  shot  went  wide  of  its  mark.  The 
doctor  was  then  authorized  to  act,  and  he  accordingly 
opened  the  arteries  in  the  man's  arm,  thus  assuring  him  a 
speedy  release  from  his  agony.  Thieves  there  were,  too,  in 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    155 

plenty,  though  short  shrift  was  their  lot  when  caught.  Fir- 
ing squads  patrolled  the  streets,  and  these  ghouls  paid  the 
price  of  their  hideous  crimes,  the  hacking  of  beringed 
fingers  from  lifeless  hands  and  the  like,  with  their  own 
worthless  bodies.  On  the  other  hand,  simple  heroism 
could  be  depicted  in  no  nobler  form  than  the  spiritual 
comfort  extended  to  the  dying  by  the  ministers  of  all 
denominations,  who  worked  like  slaves  at  great  risk  to 
themselves. 

A  word  of  praise  must  be  written  anent  the  pluck  and 
never  flagging  determination  shown  by  all  ranks  of  the  fire 
department  under  the  command  of  Chief  Shaughnessey, 
who  succeeded  Chief  Sullivan  after  the  death  of  the  latter. 
The  firemen  worked  for  three  whole  days  with  such  ap- 
paratus as  was  at  hand,  and  only  ceased  when  compelled  so 
to  do  from  physical  exhaustion.  And,  withal,  humour  was 
not  lacking.  It  so  happened  that  the  Metropolitan  Opera 
Company,  of  New  York,  was  fulfilling  an  engagement  in 
the  city  at  the  time,  and  the  experiences  of  its  individual 
members  would  fill  a  volume.  Their  worldwide  fame,  of 
course,  aroused  the  greatest  interest  in  their  fates,  and  it 
was  only  after  some  days  that  public  anxiety  was  allayed 
and  it  was  learnt  that  no  one  of  their  number  was  the  worse 
for  the  experience.  Caruso  was  a  guest  at  the  Palace  Hotel 
and  only  escaped  with  difficulty.  But  he  accepted  the  un- 
expected with  a  philosophy  not  usually  associated  with  his 
countrymen  and,  as  he  sat  in  the  middle  of  the  street  upon 
his  valise  wondering  what  was  coming  next,  he  nonchal- 
antly rolled  a  cigarette  and  professed  himself  as  not  unduly 
disturbed.  Later,  in  common  with  everyone  else,  he  was 
compelled  to  shift  for  himself,  and  owed  his  cordial  recep- 
tion by  a  band  of  soldiers,  who  gave  him  food  and  lodging, 
to  the  fact  that  he  was  carrying  with  him  a  photo  of  ex- 
President  Roosevelt  inscribed  with  the  words,  "With  kind- 
est regards/'  This  served  as  a  passport,  one  of  the  men 
remarking,  "If  you're  Teddy's  friend  come  right  in  and  be 
comfortable/'  Caruso  afterwards  summed  up  his  impres- 
sions in  the  sentence,  "It  instantly  recalled  the  horrors  of 


i56  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

my  native  Naples,  of  which  I've  been  reading.  Vesuvius 
in  eruption  could  not  have  been  as  horrible."  Campanari, 
the  great  baritone,  contented  himself  by  opining  that  it 
made  a  change  in  the  monotony  of  touring,  and  that  he 
found  Caruso's  pajamas,  in  which  incidentally  he  had  es- 
caped, a  bad  fit.  Rossi,  the  bass,  passed  the  time  by  trying 
his  voice;  while  Nahan  Franko,  one  of  the  conductors, 
risked  his  life  by  returning  to  his  hotel  in  order  to  save  a 
violin  he  much  prized.  Madame  Sembrich  succeeded  in 
saving  her  pearls,  reputed  to  be  some  of  the  finest  extant, 
but  assessed  the  loss  of  her  wardrobe  at  $25,000. 
Finally,  Alfred  Hertz,  the  musical  director,  who  also  helped 
himself  to  Caruso's  garments  in  the  moment  of  emergency, 
found  safety  near  the  zoological  gardens,  which,  owing  to 
the  roars  of  the  frightened  beasts,  he  declared  to  be  a  more 
horrible  place  than  any  in  the  city. 

A  fact  of  more  than  passing  interest,  which  must  strike 
all  observers,  is  the  similarity  of  the  results  recorded  in  this 
conflagration  to  those  in  the  Baltimore  outbreak.  The  lat- 
ter was  the  first  in  which  modern  methods  of  fire  resistance 
received  a  severe  test.  There,  the  water  supply  was  ade- 
quate and  the  Fire  Department  well  up  to  the  average  and 
manipulated  with  considerable  intelligence.  There  were 
fireproof  buildings,  most  of  them  of  modern  construction 
and  so  situated  as  to  reinforce  each  other  and  act,  so  tc 
speak,  as  fire-breaks.  Yet,  the  result  shewed  that  in  the 
direct  sweep  of  the  fire  as  determined  by  the  direction  oi 
the  wind,  nothing  survived  except  the  following:  Firstly 
an  occasional  one  or  two-story  building  favourably  locatec 
as  to  shelter  or  wind  currents.  Secondly,  an  occasional 
grade  floor  in  a  fire-resistive  building  and,  thirdly,  th( 
empty  shells  of  the  fireproof  buildings  themselves,  none  o\ 
which  possessed  front  window  protection.  Finally,  struc- 
tures on  the  side  borders  of  the  wind  sweep,  where  the  ex 
posure  was  confined  to  ignition  from  brands,  and  where  mer 
and  apparatus  could  maintain  a  working  basis  and  keej 
open  their  communications.  There  was  also  something  ir 
the  nature  of  a  successful  check  at  Jones  Falls,  a  stream  ol 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    157 

water  of  but  moderate  width,  by  which  engines  belonging 
to  the  New  York  Fire  Department  made  a  determined 
stand.  Thus,  from  past  experiences,  there  was  no  reason- 
able expectation  in  San  Francisco  of  the  survival  of  any 
building  after  the  Fire  Department  was  in  retreat  except 
in  cases  analogous  to  those  just  mentioned.  In  the  main 
this  proved  correct,  with  some  few  exceptions.  Within 
the  burned  section  not  only  did  all  frame  buildings  succumb 
but  also  all  brick  structures  having  wooden  floor  beams, 
whether  of  good,  bad  or  indifferent  construction,  and  with 
more  or  less  complete  ruin  in  nearly  every  case  with  the 
one  exception  of  the  Palace  Hotel. 

Prominent  amongst  conclusions  which  may  be  formed 
from  this  disaster,  in  the  opinion  of  the  writer,  are  the  use- 
lessness  of  explosives  as  a  deterrent  measure  to  the  spread 
of  flames  and  the  danger  to  tall  buildings  from  the  heat 
engendered  by  burning  structures  of  a  lesser  height.  The 
former  accentuates  confusion,  causes  panic,  fosters  misun- 
derstandings between  municipal  and  federal  authorities,  de- 
stroys property  which  otherwise  might  conceivably  be  saved, 
provides  fresh  fuel  for  the  flames  and  hence  is  practically 
worthless  as  a  serious  feature  in  fire-fighting.  An  excep- 
tion, which  may  occur,  only  goes  to  emphasize  the  point. 
As  regards  the  latter,  this  danger  was  plainly  exemplified 
in  the  occurrences  in  San  Francisco  and  serves  to  illustrate 
the  care  which  must  be  taken  in  considering  the  fire-resist- 
ing methods  which  must  receive  attention  in  the  modern 
skyscraper,  and  which  are  dealt  with  at  length  in  another 
chapter. 

Suffice  it  to  say  that  the  heat  wave  generated  during  the 
climax  of  the  conflagration  rose  to  a  height  of  about  300 
feet  above  the  street  level  and  was  directly  responsible  for 
the  ignition  of  church  steeples,  skyscrapers  and  all  struc- 
tures of  a  similar  character.  Otherwise  many  old  data  re- 
ceived confirmation,  which  have  been  listed  as  follows  in 
the  Underwriter's  report  upon  the  conflagration. 
A.  The  dangerous  effect  of  a  number  of  simultaneous 
fires. 


1 58  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

B.  The  weakening  of  a  fire-fighting  force  if  compelled  tc 
thin  out  over  a  wide  front. 

C.  The  improbability,  with  existing  methods,  of  fronta 
resistance  to  a  fire  sweep,  when  the  wind  velocity  ex 
ceeds  a  certain  critical  figure. 

D.  The  special  vulnerability  of  leeward  upslopes. 

E.  The   structural  ruin   in  conflagrations   of  all   wood 
en  joist  brick  buildings  where  the  stability  of   th< 
walls  in  any  way  depends  upon  the  bracing  of  th< 
beams. 

F.  The  limited  utility  in  a  conflagration  of  rear  and  sid< 
shuttering,  where  front  windows  remain  unprotected 

G.  The  likelihood  of  ignition  of  ordinary  roofs,  consist 
ing  as  they  do  of  wooden  boards  with  a  thin  veneer  o: 
tin  or  other  roofing  material. 

H.  The  slight  value  as  conflagration  breaks  of  fireproo: 
buildings,  when  abandoned. 

I.  The  possibility  of  holding  buildings  even  with  unpro 
tected  openings,  provided  there  are  some  men,  ever 
only  a  little  water  and  the  openings  are  few. 

J.  The  structural  survival,  even  without  window  protec 
tion,  and  when  abandoned,  of  steel  frame  building; 
with  fireproof  floor  arches,  provided  the  steel  frame  i: 
properly  encased  with  fireproof  material,  the  struc 
tural  damage  being  in  close  proportion  to  the  quality 
of  the  frame  protection. 

K.  The  greater  or  lesser  destruction  in  such  buildings  o: 
all  non-structural  interior ;  heavy  spall  ing  of  all  kind: 
of  facing  stone,  the  injury  to  ornamental  moulding: 
and  copings,  extensive  damage  to  hollow  tile  in  floo: 
arches  and  partitions  as  usually  constructed,  a  markec 
increase  of  injury  where  wood  finished  floors  are  usec 
over  the  floor  arches,  the  danger  from  falling  safe; 
where  there  is  loose  back  filling,  the  failure  of  unpro 
tected  cast-iron  mullions  and  spandrels  in  courts  anc 
the  weakness  of  roofs  carried  on  unprotected  stee 
rafters  with  suspended  ceilings. 
Amongst  other  important  lessons  derived  from  this  con 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    159 

flagration  in  the  matter  of  fire-fighting  may  appropriately 
be  noticed  the  following: 

A.  The  importance  of  front  as  well  as  rear  and  side  win- 
dow protection,  fire-resistant  if  possible,  but  at  any 
rate,  fire-retardant,  i.  e.,  wireglass. 

B.  The  necessity  of  encouraging  individual  protection  by 
occupants  of  buildings. 

C.  The  importance  of  ample  water  supply  and  good  pres- 
sure. 

D.  The  necessity  for  all  fire  departments  to  have  a  large 
reserve  of  apparatus  and  hose. 

E.  The  importance  to  fire  departments  of  powerful  ap- 
paratus with  long  range. 

F.  The  importance  of  fire-resisting  roofs,  roof  structures 
and  of  well  protected  skylights. 

G.  The  necessity  of  the  adoption  of  rigid  standards  for 
column  protection. 

H.     The  importance  of  good  bricklaying  and  mortar,  with 

cement  in  place  of  lime. 
J.      The   importance  of   efficient  protection  to  the  steel 

frames  in  roof  attics. 
K.   The  importance  in  partitions  of    a  better  bracing  of 

tile  and  the  need  of  fire-retardant  transoms  as  well  as 

doors. 

In  conclusion,  perhaps  the  writer  may  be  pardoned  for 
hazarding  the  belief  that  in  case  of  a  great  conflagration, 
where  the  military  authorities  are  invited  to  assist  in  the 
maintenance  of  order,  every  effort  should  be  made  to  assist 
the  Fire  Department,  and  the  loss  of  individual  property 
should  be  subordinated  to  the  public  weal,  in  accordance 
with  the  expressed  opinion  of  the  Fire  Chief.  Thus  the 
policy  at  San  Francisco,  by  which  looting  was  prevented 
on  any  large  scale  by  the  indiscriminate  employment  of  the 
military  who  were  also  responsible  for  the  use  of  explosives, 
may  have  saved  some  thousands  of  dollars,  but  this  very 
policy  was  probably  accountable  for  the  loss  of  millions,  by 
the  way  in  which  the  skilled  fire-fighters  were  hampered  in 
their  movements  through  official  interference,  by  the  un- 


160  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

necessary  blocking  of  important  thoroughfares  and  by  th 
fears  of  bodily  harm  consequent  upon  unexpected  explc 
sions. 

It  would  appear  as  though  the  American  continent  pos 
sessed  a  monopoly  of  great  conflagrations  and,  in  all  trutl 
this  is  in  a  measure  correct,  owing  to  peculiarities  of  cor 
struction.  But  Canada  supplies  an  instance  of  what  ma 
happen  when  the  fire  department  is  not  equal  to  the  need 
of  the  situation,  which  must  sometimes  occur  when  th 
building  material  is  chiefly  wood.  The  town  of  Hull,  whic 
is  situated  on  the  north  bank  of  the  Ottawa  River,  directl 
opposite  the  capital  of  the  Dominion,  was,  until  April  2( 
1900,  a  thriving  and  prosperous  municipality.  On  the 
spring  morning  a  fire  broke  out  a  quarter  of  a  mile  fror 
the  main  street  of  the  little  city  and,  fanned  by  a  fierce  gal 
from  the  northwest,  rapidly  advanced  in  the  direction  of  th 
countless  lumber  mills  and  other  factories  from  whic 
Hull  obtained  its  prosperity.  The  population  was  chiefl 
composed  of  persons  employed  in  these  industries  and  o 
the  heads  of  the  mills  in  the  district,  whose  houses,  althoug 
many  of  them  large,  were  built  of  wood.  By  11.30  th 
flames  had  swept  across  Main  Street,  and  its  dozens  of  cros 
thoroughfares  were  rendered  impassable.  The  Coui 
House,  the  Post  Office  and  many  churches  were  destroyec 
and  by  midnight  the  interprovincial  bridge,  connecting  Hu 
with  Ottawa,  was  a  mass  of  flame.  In  the  ruins  of  Hu 
there  remained  only  the  Catholic  Cathedral  with  a  fe^ 
houses  clustered  about  it,  and  two  factories  to  mark  th 
existence  of  what  had  once  been  a  flourishing  Industrie 
centre. 

But  the  flames  were  unsatisfied.  Aided  by  th 
wind,  great  masses  of  burning  embers  ignited  the  powe 
houses,  street  electric  and  incandescent  electric  companiei 
buildings  on  Victoria  Island,  from  whence  the  wharves  o 
Chaudiere  Flats,  part  of  Ottawa  itself,  were  within  eas 
distance.  Here  were  situated  a  great  number  of  lumbe 
mills,  and  the  piles  of  dried  timber  were  the  most  enticin: 
food  for  the  roaring  conflagration  that  could  have  bee; 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    161 

found.  Here  also,  was  located  the  Canadian  Pacific  Rail- 
way station,  which,  being  of  wood  like  the  other  structures, 
offered  no  resistance  to  the  attack.  In  fact,  so  rapid  was 
the  onrush  of  the  enemy  that  many  fine  houses  were  con- 
sumed in  the  twinkling  of  an  eye,  and  before  their  owners 
were  able  to  save  even  the  smallest  proportion  of  their  pos- 
sessions. Montreal  and  smaller  towns  in  the  vicinity  of  the 
threatened  city  nobly  responded  with  men  and  apparatus  on 
an  appeal  for  aid,  since  the  outbreak  had  assumed  propor- 
tions far  beyond  the  control  of  a  comparatively  small  local 
fire  department.  But  even  this  assistance,  combined  with 
the  efforts  of  the  militia,  proved  of  no  avail  in  the  face  of 
the  tornado  of  flame,  which  tore  like  a  whirlwind  past  every 
obstruction  and  threatened  to  transform  the  Capital  of 
Canada  into  a  heap  of  ashes  like  its  suburb  of  Hull. 
Rochesterville,  a  small  township,  which  had  been  included 
some  time  previously  within  the  city  limits,  was  rendered  a 
desolate  waste,  and  had  it  not  been  that  the  direction  of  the 
wind  mercifully  changed  to  the  east,  and  had  it  not  been 
for  the  high  cliffs  which  formed  an  insurmountable  barrier 
to  the  onset,  not  all  the  fire  departments  in  Canada  could 
have  saved  the  city.  Owing  to  the  destruction  of  the  elec- 
tric light  supply,  the  House  of  Commons,  which  was  then 
sitting,  was  obliged  to  adjourn. 

Everything  possible  was  done  to  provide  shelter 
and  subsistence  for  the  seven  thousand  homeless 
people,  whose  condition  was  piteous  in  the  extreme. 
Most  of  them  were  labourers  from  the  mills,  and 
lumber  yards  who  had  seen  their  homes  wiped  out  and  their 
occupations  taken  from  them  at  practically  one  and  the 
same  moment.  The  military  drill  hall  and  the  exhibition 
buildings  were  devoted  to  this  charitable  purpose,  and  many 
philanthropists  proved  themselves  worthy  of  the  demands 
made  upon  them.  A  curious  feature  of  this  disaster  was 
the  fact  that,  after  the  fire  had  burnt  itself  out,  there  re- 
mained no  smouldering  embers  and  smoking  ruins,  but  all 
was  literally  in  ashes,  so  thoroughly  had  the  flames  done 
their  work.  It  is  also  worthy  of  note  that  only  seven  per- 


i62  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

sons  met  their  death,  and  that  no  fireman  was  injured  with 
the  exception  of  the  Chief  of  the  Hull  brigade.  The  prop- 
erty loss  was  assessed  at  $17,000,000  (£3,400,000), 
and  some  idea  of  the  extent  of  damage  in  the 
lumber  yards  alone  can  be  gained  from  the  bare  statemenl 
that  two  hundred  million  feet  of  timber  was  destroyed 
Needless  to  say,  the  price  of  this  commodity  was  mater iall) 
increased  and  the  trade  suffered  severely.  This  conflagra- 
tion, it  will  be  observed,  was  of  the  same  sweeping  charactei 
as  that  of  Baltimore,  though  fought  under  totally  differenl 
circumstances. 

For  sheer  horror,  the  disaster  at  the  bazaar  in  the  Rue 
Jean  Goujon,  Paris,  on  May  4,  1897,  surpasses  the  wildesl 
dreams  of  the  most  morbid  fiction  writer,  and  will  ever  live 
as  perpetual  reminder  to  the  thoughtless  of  the  uncertaint) 
of  existence.  Owing  to  the  social  prominence  of  its 
one  hundred  and  fifty  victims,  this  catastrophe 
stands  out  unique  in  the  annals  of  great  fires.  Im- 
agine the  elite  of  a  great  city,  the  subscribers  tc 
such  fashionable  organizations  as  the  Opera,  the 
Horse  Show  and,  in  England,  Ascot.  Pack  them  all  withir 
a  limited  area,  apply  a  match  and  make  a  bonfire  of  the 
surroundings  and  picture  the  result.  These  formed  the 
patrons  at  the  bazaar  in  question,  when,  at  4  P.M.  on  thai 
day,  hundreds  of  persons  were  crowding  the  narrow  aislei 
between  the  stalls  decorated  to  represent  the  streets  of  olc 
Paris,  and  were  gazing  with  interest  at  the  many  titled  mer 
and  women  who  had  offered  their  services  on  behalf  of  c 
well-deserving  charity.  The  building  itself  was  a  one-stor} 
wooden  structure  with  a  freshly  tarred  roof,  and  contained 
draperies  and  curtains  of  highly  inflammable  material.  A; 
in  most  of  these  instances,  the  origin  of  the  fire  is  doubtful 
it  may  have  been  caused  by  the  overturning  of  a  spirit  lamj 
or  the  ignition  of  the  illuminating  apparatus  of  a  cinemato 
graph  which  had  been  installed  for  the  additional  amuse- 
ment of  the  visitors,  but  all  that  is  definitely  known  is,  thai 
at  this  hour  in  the  afternoon  an  explosion  took  place  on  th< 
left  side  of  the  bazaar.  The  flames,  seizing  the  hanging! 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    163 

and  articles  exposed  for  sale,  spread  rapidly,  and  the  crowd 
instinctively  sought  the  farthest  point  from  danger.  Of  the 
eight  doors,  one  was  on  the  left,  and  therefore  cut  off  by 
the  flames,  three  opened  on  to  the  Rue  Jean  Goujon  and 
four,  located  in  the  rear  and  used  by  employees,  were  un- 
known to  the  guests.  People  near  the  main  entrances  were 
able  to  escape  with  but  slight  injury,  but  the  great  mass  of 
humanity  surged  towards  the  right  wall  where  there  was 
no  outlet  save  a  small  window  heavily  barred,  which  con- 
nected with  the  Hotel  du  Palais.  Servants  in  the  hotel,  who 
had  been  peering  through  this  opening  to  obtain  a  glimpse 
of  the  gay  throng,  succeeded  in  breaking  the  bars  and  res- 
cuing a  number  of  the  panic-stricken  throng,  but  while  so 
doing  many  were  burnt  before  their  eyes. 

The  first  intimation  of  the  situation  to  passers-by  was  a 
rush  of  semi-nude  and  maddened  women  into  the  adjacent 
streets  where  instantly  all  became  confusion.  Rows  of 
stately  carriages  and  humble  cabs,  whose  drivers  had  been 
awaiting  the  arrival  of  their  employers,  were  roused  into 
activity  by  the  vision  of  their  shrieking,  blood-stained  own- 
ers, wildly  clamouring  to  be  driven  anywhere  away  from 
the  scene  of  horror.  Grooms  in  the  service  of  the  Baron  de 
Rothschild,  whose  stables  were  nearby,  used  their  hose  to 
good  purpose  in  extinguishing  the  flames  enveloping  the 
filmy  gowns  of  escaping  patrons,  and  one  man,  more  clear- 
headed than  the  rest,  plunged  at  full  length  into  a  horse 
trough  to  find  relief  from  his  sufferings.  Before  the  fire- 
men could  arrive  the  whole  structure  was  in  a  blaze  and  the 
building  collapsed  even  as  the  engines  galloped  up.  It  had 
been  known  to  the  authorities  that  the  hall  was  anything  but 
fire-resistant,  though  being  built  upon  private  property  they 
had  not  been  able  to  take  any  steps  in  the  matter,  and  it  had 
been  thought  that  its  dimensions,  and  the  fact  that  it  was 
on  the  street  level,  was  sufficient  guarantee  of  its  security. 

In  the  meantime  rescues  had  been  effected  in  the  interior 
by  a  few  brave  priests,  who,  by  means  of  some  ladders,  had 
led  about  thirty  persons  over  the  walls  of  a  neighbouring 
convent.  But  anything  in  the  nature  of  organized  fire-fight- 


i64  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

ing  was  out  of  the  question,  the  flames  having  got  beyond 
control,  and  the  whole  structure  resembling  nothing  so  much 
as  a  giant  funeral  pyre,  which  was  intensified  by  the  piteous 
moans  and  cries  for  help,  which  no  human  power  could 
give.  It  is  difficult  to  gather  any  collected  narrative  of  what 
happened  within.  In  moments  such  as  these  impressions 
are  fleeting  and  as  elusive  as  the  phantasmagoria  of  de- 
lirium. But  a  few  episodes  remain,  illustrative  to  some  ex- 
tent of  the  nature  of  the  struggle  for  life,  while  others 
exemplify  the  height  of  self-abnegation,  to  which  on  occa- 
sion individuals  arise.  The  story  of  the  martyrdom  of  the 
Duchesse  D'Alengon  was  related  afterwards  by  an  eye-wit- 
ness, a  young  girl  who  had  been  assisting  her  at  a  stall  not 
far  from  the  outbreak  of  the  fire.  As  the  younger  woman 
saw  the  flames  approach  she  begged  her  friend  to  escape, 
pointing  out  the  fact  that  the  main  entrance  was  near,  and 
that  the  fire  would  soon  be  upon  them.  But  the  Duchess 
replied  in  calm  tones  that  it  was  their  duty  to  allow  the 
visitors  a  first  chance,  and  she  and  her  terrified  companion 
remained  at  their  post  watching  the  waves  of  frightened 
people  beat  their  way  to  safety,  until  the  heat  became  so 
intense  that  Mademoiselle  L.  could  endure  it  no  longer. 
With  one  last  entreaty  to  the  Duchess  she  joined  the  others 
leaving  her  brave  companion  with  hands  clasped  across  her 
breast  and  eyes  steadfastly  fixed  on  her  approaching  doom 
never  to  be  seen  again  alive.  It  may  here  be  remarked  that 
the  Duchess  was  a  sister  of  the  Empress  of  Austria,  who 
later  was  to  die  a  victim  to  the  assassin's  knife,  and  that 
both  were  universally  known  and  beloved.  Some  may  find 
food  for  reflection  in  the  extraordinary  manner  tragedy 
appears  to  dog  the  footsteps  of  the  members  of  certain  fam- 
ilies, and  of  a  truth  fire  is  no  respecter  of  persons,  as  has 
been  instanced  again  and  again.  When  the  firemen  were 
able  to  enter  the  ruins  of  this  charnel  house  they  found 
near  the  fatal  right  wall  a  mound  of  dead  five  feet  in  height, 
denuded  of  clothing  and  many  unrecognizable.  The 
Duchess  was  identified  only  by  a  ring  and  certain  stopped 
teeth  in  her  jaw.  Piteous  was  the  plight  of  many  of  the 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    165 

survivors,  some  of  whom  became  insane  from  fright,  while 
others  were  so  severely  injured  that  they  afterwards  died 
or  carried  traces  of  the  experience  for  many  years. 

It  is  out  of  the  question  to  criticize  what  might,  or  might 
not,  have  been  done  in  the  case  of  a  disaster  of  this  nature. 
With  a  non-fire-resistive  structure  and  conditions  such  as 
prevailed,  from  the  first  the  case  was  practically  hopeless, 
though,  as  a  counsel  of  perfection,  had  panic  been  avoided 
more  persons  might  have  been  saved,  and  notices  advising 
visitors  of  the  back  exits  should  have  been  displayed.  But 
even  the  latter  would  probably  have  availed  little,  since  it 
is  the  prime  impulse  of  every  person  in  a  building  to  leave 
by  the  exit  through  which  he  or  she  entered.  This  it  is 
which  makes  it  of  supreme  importance  to  have  properly 
drilled  aisle  guards  and  a  staff  who,  in  emergency,  will  keep 
cool  and  act  as  pilots  to  the  excited  and  hysterical.  It  is  not 
too  much  to  say  that  if  all  were  possessed  of  the  splendid 
courage  of  the  Duchesse  D'Alengon,  less  life  would  be  sac- 
rificed to  fire. 

It  is  a  relief  to  turn  from  the  contemplation  of  such  hor- 
rors to  a  conflagration,  which,  if  involving  tremendous1 
financial  loss,  at  least  was  unattended  with  the  harrowing 
scenes  which  have  been  described  above.  In  London  on  the 
1 9th  of  November,  1897,  a  fire  broke  out  at  30  Hansel 
Street,  in  the  heart  of  the  manufacturing  and  warehouse 
section  of  the  city.  The  origin  of  the  conflagration  was 
the  explosion  of  a  gas  engine  on  the  premises  of  a  large 
firm  of  mantle  manufacturers.  The  employees,  terrified  by 
the  smoke,  rushed  to  the  roof  and  fled  shrieking  in  fear 
over  the  adjoining  buildings.  A  strong  wind  was  blowing, 
and,  as  is  often  the  case  in  emergencies  of  this  nature,  every- 
body's business  being  nobody's  business,  there  was  some 
delay  in  transmitting  a  fire  call.  On  the  arrival  of  the 
Brigade  the  flames  had  spread  to  a  neighbouring  warehouse 
and  had  crossed  the  street  to  a  paper  factory.  In  this  part 
of  the  city  the  streets  are  particularly  narrow  and  great 
difficulty  was  experienced  by  the  firemen  in  conveniently 
placing  their  apparatus.  Large  forces  of  police  were  re- 


i66  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

quired  to  keep  back  the  crowds  who  sprang  up  as  if  by 
magic  and  threatened  seriously  to  hamper  the  operations 
of  the  fire-fighters.  One  after  another  the  buildings,  stocked 
with  large  supplies  of  novelties  and  goods  for  the  Christmas 
market,  were  involved,  and  an  explosion  of  gas  meters 
added  to  the  complexities  of  the  situation.  Firemen,  who 
had  ascended  to  the  roofs  of  fire-free  buildings  in  order 
better  to  attack  the  outbreak,  found  their  retreat  cut  off, 
and  the  excited  spectators  witnessed  many  daring  rescues 
of  these  brave  men  by  their  comrades.  The  vicarage  of 
St.  Giles  Church,  Cripplegate,  was  completely  destroyed, 
and  the  church  itself,  interesting  on  account  of  its  historic 
associations,  was  saved  after  almost  superhuman  effort.  In 
all,  one  hundred  houses  covering  four  acres  were  consumed, 
and  the  combined  exertions  of  practically  the  entire  brigade 
were  unsuccessful  in  checking  the  flames  until  5.30  p.  M., 
when  a  wall  collapsed  in  Well  Street,  arresting  the  progress 
of  the  latter.  The  width  of  Red  Cross  Street  was  for- 
tunately a  sufficient  barrier  at  that  point,  for  had  the  fire 
broken  through  it  is  impossible  to  say  where  and  how  it 
would  have  been  stopped. 

Some  idea  of  the  magnitude  of  the  conflagration  can 
be  gleaned  from  the  fact  that  at  midnight  no  less  than  fifty 
engines  were  still  at  work,  and  the  fire  was  not  under  com- 
plete control  till  the  following  morning.  The  total  financial 
loss  amounted  to  five  million  pounds  ($25,000,000),  put  two 
thousand  people  out  of  work  and  sent  up  the  price  of 
ostrich  feathers  in  all  parts  of  the  world.  There  is  an 
absence  of  spectacular  detail  about  such  an  outbreak,  which 
tends  to  make  it  almost  dull  and  uninteresting,  but  at  the 
same  time  it  illustrates  effectively  the  vast  risks  which  are 
to  be  found  in  European  towns  and  goes  to  show  that  the 
London  Fire  Department,  though  to  American  ideas  lightly 
equipped  as  regards  personnel  and  apparatus,  is  at  times 
called  upon  to  fight  fires  of  the  first  magnitude.  It  is  per- 
haps this  very  absence  of  spectacular  effect  which  makes 
the  realization  of  fire  peril  so  difficult  to  the  European 
and  so  vivid  to  the  American.  Baltimore,  San  Francisco, 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT    167 

the  Equitable,  were  occurrences  of  world  wide  interest  and 
absorbed  the  descriptive  talent  of  every  skilful  writer  on 
two  continents.  A  fire  such  as  the  above  is  merely  a  record 
of  good  work  well  and  bravely  done  in  the  most  unromantic 
of  surroundings,  and  with  a  total  absence  of  "colour,"  pa- 
thetic, exciting,  or  enthralling.  The  business  of  the  world 
was  not  temporarily  dislocated,  though  the  pecuniary  val- 
ues involved  were  so  tremendous;  lives  were  in  danger, 
certainly,  but  so  they  are  daily  and  the  fact  passes  unnoticed. 
Hence  it  is  that  in  describing  great  conflagrations,  those 
in  Europe  are  apt  to  sink  into  insignificance  and  those 
in  the  States  loom  out  large  in  their  gaunt  and  staring 
hideousness. 

In  this  respect  it  may  not  be  inappropriate  to  add  a 
few  words  about  the  fire  danger  in  conjunction  with 
floods.  In  the  spring  of  most  years  and  alas!  par- 
ticularly in  that  of  1913,  floods  often  occur  through  the 
rising  of  rivers  and  vast  tracts  of  territory  are  inundated, 
while  towns  and  cities  are  washed  away  or  destroyed  by 
fire.  That  latter  phrase  often  gives  rise  to  comment.  Peo- 
ple argue,  how  can  it  be  possible  to  have  fires  when  it  is 
water  which  is  giving  the  main  cause  for  alarm?  The  an- 
swer is  simple  enough :  gas  mains  burst,  oil  stoves  are  upset, 
electric  light  mains  are  severed  and  become  potential  torches 
and  there  is  no  means  of  effectively  fighting  the  outbreak. 
Streets,  impassable  through  water,  naturally  prevent  the 
operating  of  any  but  floating  fire  apparatus,  and  thus  it 
is  that  flames  and  flood  sometimes  work  as  allies,  and 
humanity  stands  staggered  at  the  immensity  of  the  forces 
combined  against  it.  But  there  is  one  comforting  reflection, 
that  silver  lining  which  borders  every  cloud,  namely  that 
year  by  year  the  services  of  science  are  being  called  upon 
to  a  greater  degree  to  keep  within  control  the  latent  forces 
of  nature.  Houses  are  built  fire-resistant,  apparatus  is 
perfected,  waters  are  dammed,  rivers  are  banked,  and  inch 
by  inch,  day  by  day,  the  never  ceasing  combat  continues  till 
the  time  shall  come  when  the  victory  shall  lie  with  man. 
That  day  will  dawn,  of  that  there  is  no  doubt,  and  the  swift- 


168  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

ness  of  its  advent  will  be  exactly  proportionate  to  the  de- 
termination of  the  human  race. 

Amongst  some  of  the  great  conflagrations  known  to  his- 
tory, the  following  are  representative,  though  it  may  be 
hazarded  that  the  financial  values  involved  must,  in  the 
earlier  years,  have  been  problematical,  as  when  an 
entire  city  is  wiped  off  the  map,  it  is  obviously  difficult 
to  total  even  approximately  the  fire  loss.  Ancient  Rome 
boasts  of  one  great  outbreak  which  consumed  almost  every 
building  within  its  walls,  this  in  64  A.  D.  Constantinople 
might  not  inaptly  be  described  as  the  much  burned,  since 
it  had  three  conflagrations  in  the  eighteenth  century  alone, 
one  costing  one  hundred  lives  and  fifteen  thousand  dwell- 
ings, another  three  hundred  lives  and  $30,000,000  worth  of 
damage,  and  the  third,  thirty  thousand  dwellings  and  a 
property  loss  of  $115,000,000.  Moscow,  outside  of  1812, 
when  the  city  was  destroyed  by  its  own  inhabitants,  rather 
than  allow  it  to  fall  into  the  hands  of  Napoleon,  was  wiped 
out  in  1383,  the  destruction  on  this  occasion  being  even 
greater  than  the  later  event,  since  natui  ally  the  construction 
was  inferior.  The  great  fire  of  London  occasioned  a  prop- 
erty loss  of  $60,000,000,  while  in  1861  the  business  section 
suffered  to  the  extent  of  $12,000,000,  and  in  1874  the 
residential  area  suffered  to  the  extent  of  $15,000,000.  A 
conflagration  of  gigantic  proportions  gutted  Smyrna  in 
1796  and  destroyed  half  the  city  with  a  loss  of  over  $50,- 
000,000.  Turning  to  America.  The  great  fire  of  New 
York  in  1835  destroyed  six  hundred  buildings  with  a  loss 
of  $20,000,000,  while  that  of  Boston  in  1872  represented 
the  second  highest  total  extant,  namely  $100,000,000.  The 
record  for  fire  loss,  before  the  conflagration  in  San  Fran- 
cisco, was  held  by  Chicago,  which  in  1871  lost  17,500  build- 
ings and  $200,000,000  worth  of  property,  though  without 
appreciable  loss  of  life.  Toronto  in  1904,  St.  John's  in 
1892,  and  Hamburg  in  1842,  were  also  visited  by  serious 
outbreaks,  that  in  the  German  city  burning  all  the  business 
section  with  a  loss  of  $35,000,000,  while  the  Newfoundland 
capital  suffered  to  the  extent  of  $26,000,000,  a  remarkable 


GREAT  FIRES— HOW  THEY  WERE  FOUGHT   169 

figure,  taking  into  consideration  the  small  size  of  the  town 
and  the  relatively  minor  importance  of  its  financial  values. 
After  such  a  recitation,  who  shall  say  that  personally,  finan- 
cially or  structurally,  fire  does  not  constitute  one  of  the 
greatest  perils  extant? 


CHAPTER  XII 

THE  HOTEL  PERIL 

WITHIN  the  last  twenty  years  a  great  change  has  come 
over  family  life,  both  in  Europe  and  America,  and  the 
reign  of  the  hotel  seems  established.  Everywhere  vast 
caravanserais  are  springing  up,  and  though  replete  with  all 
the  comfort  the  mind  of  man  can  devise,  and  though  ad- 
vertised as  "fireproof,"  their  construction  is  often  such  as 
to  render  them  an  easy  prey  to  fire  and  therefore  dangerous 
to  human  life.  That  some  people  are  aware  of  this  fact  is 
evidenced  by  the  frequent  demand  of  visitors  for  rooms 
"not  too  high  up,"  or  "on  the  lowest  story."  For,  it  must 
be  remembered,  that  people  do  not  perish  only  by  fire  itself, 
but  from  suffocation  consequent  on  smoke,  from  ill-judged 
action  caused  by  panic  and  from  other  indirect  causes. 
Also,  the  expression  "fireproof,"  as  applied  to  a  building, 
does  not  include  its  furnishings  and  equipment,  and  is  fur- 
ther no  guarantee  that  it  has  been  designed  along  the  lines 
of  greatest  resistance  to  the  fire  peril.  Finally,  the  fire- 
proofing  of  materials  is  not  always  satisfactory,  and  a  story 
is  told  of  a  contractor  in  that  business  who  was  asked  by 
a  friend  what  was  done  with  all  the  shavings  and  chips 
from  fireproof  wood.  The  nonchalant  reply,  "We  use  them 
to  light  the  stoves  in  the  morning,  they  make  excellent  kin- 
dling," gave  him  food  for  reflection.  There  can  be  no 
doubt  that  hotel  fires  are  extremely  prevalent,  as  may  be 
judged  from  the  following  figures.  During  the  first  day 
of  1913,  five  hotels  in  widely  separated  portions  of  the 
United  States  were  destroyed,  with  a  loss  of  two  lives  and 
$100,000.  The  total  of  such  fires  in  the  month  of  January 
was  twenty-five,  representing  a  property  loss  of  $700,000, 

170 


THE   HOTEL   PERIL  171 

and  seven  lives.  In  1912  there  was  a  hotel  fire  every 
thirty-three  hours  in  North  America,  and  up  to  date,  1913, 
that  record  has  been  passed,  with  an  outbreak  every  thirty 
hours.  It  has  been  estimated  that  the  property  loss  in  the 
United  States,  through  these  disasters,  during  the  last  five 
years  has  amounted  to  $25,000,000  (£5,000,000),  while  the 
death  roll  has  been  proportionate.  These  figures,  it  is  true, 
apply  to  America,  but  similar  occurrences  are  common 
enough  in  Europe,  and  are  by  no  means  confined  to  the 
older-fashioned  structures.  To  wit,  the  fire  at  the  Carlton 
Hotel  is  still  fresh  in  the  memory  of  Londoners. 

Now  it  must  not  be  supposed  that  this  state  of  affairs 
is  due  to  the  apathy  of  hotel  proprietors  and  managers  as 
to  the  safety  of  their  clients;  apart  from  considerations 
of  humanity  and  sentiment,  that  would  be  bad  business. 
Rather  is  ignorance  the  root  of  the  evil,  ignorance  of  the 
very  first  principles  of  fire  control,  which  all  responsible  for 
the  lives  and  safety  of  others  should  thoroughly  understand. 
It  is  only  too  common  to  find  an  attic  at  the  top  of  an  hotel 
used  as  a  lumber  room  and  filled  with  all  kinds  of  inflam- 
mable rubbish  such  as  old  mattresses,  empty  boxes,  ex- 
celsior and  waste  paper,  a  perfect  magazine  of  combustible 
material  and  a  direct  invitation  to  a  visit  from  the  flames. 
Many  hotels  again,  have  unprotected  elevator  shafts 
around  which  circle  the  main  stairs;  should  a  fire  orig- 
inate on  the  ground  floor,  instanter  the  shaft  becomes  a 
flue  up  which  the  flames  sweep  with  amazing  rapidity,  and 
the  stairway  as  a  means  of  exit  becomes  impassable.  De- 
fective electric  wiring  is  likewise  a  constant  source  of  dan- 
ger, short-circuiting  constituting  one  of  the  most  serious 
of  risks.  As  for  heating  apparatus,  with  faulty  connections, 
improperly  covered  or  wrongly  situated  hot-air  ducts — 
were  this  cause  of  trouble  eliminated,  it  is  no  exaggeration 
to  say  that  hotel  fires  would  decrease  by  one-third.  It  may 
be  imagined  that  the  introduction  of  precautions  necessary 
to  combat  this  peril  spells  the  expenditure  of  large  sums 
of  money  and  radical  structural  alterations.  Broadly 
speaking,  this  is  not  the  case,  the  expenditure  of  a  certain 


172  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

amount  of  common  sense  and  care  will  produce  far  reach- 
ing results,  as  the  history  of  hotel  fires  goes  to  show,  while 
in  the  case  of  new  construction  it  should  be  realized  that 
"skimping"  in  the  matter  of  fire  protection,  in  the  long 
run,  is  the  worst  kind  of  "penny  wise,  pound  foolish"  policy. 
The  municipal  authorities,  of  course,  insist  upon  compliance 
with  certain  regulations  when  the  erection  of  a  hotel  is 
undertaken,  varying  with  the  country  and  local  conditions, 
but  as  a  rule  the  building  code  is  directed  chiefly  towards 
insuring  safety  of  exit  for  guests,  rather  than  interfering 
with  the  larger  issue  of  how  the  necessity  of  a  hurried  exit 
may  be  avoided.  At  the  same  time  the  writer  must  place 
on  record  the  fact  that,  in  New  York,  the  new  hotels 
embody  every  known  means  of  fire  resistance  and  are  as 
perfect  in  their  construction  as  the  present  state  of  human 
knowledge  will  allow. 

But  what  precautions  then  should  be  taken  in 
older  buildings  and  are  they  beyond  the  scope  of  the 
average  manager  ?  The  answer  may  be  framed  in  the  form 
of  another  question  or  rather  series  of  questions.  Has 
everything  been  done  to  prevent  a  possible  outbreak  by  the 
removal  of  potential  sources  of  the  same?  This  is  largely 
a  matter  of  common  sense  coupled  with  some  thought. 
Then,  can  a  fire  be  readily  detected  ?  Is  there  an  automatic 
fire  alarm  or  is  there  a  night  watchman  who  records  his 
tours  of  inspection  in  a  clock?  Can  guests  be  readily 
alarmed,  and  is  there  direct  telephonic  communication  with 
the  fire  department?  Is  there  an  efficient  system  of  fire 
escapes  and  is  the  house  properly  provided  with  chemical 
extinguishers  and  such  like  apparatus?  Are  the  employees 
competent  to  deal  with  an  incipient  blaze  and  have  any 
regulations  been  issued  as  to  the  particular  duty  of  each 
in  the  event  of  an  emergency?  These  suggestions  do  not 
represent  a  considerable  capital  outlay  and  yet  are  all  of 
primal  importance.  Of  course,  it  is  easy  to  continue  the 
catechism  further  and  to  ask  whether,  in  design  and  con- 
struction, the  building  is  such  that  it  is  feasible  to  confine 
a  fire  within  certain  limits,  whether  elevator  shafts  are 


THE   HOTEL   PERIL  173 

covered  in,  whether  floor  openings  are  unprotected,  whether 
there  is  a  sufficient  water  supply,  and  whether  the  house 
is  guarded  against  exposure  fires,  i.e.,  fires  caused  by 
adjacency  to  some  other  burning  structure,  a  common 
enough  contingency  and  one  easily  met  by  the  adoption 
of  wire-glass  in  windows?  This  may  appear  a  formidable 
battery  of  queries,  but  a  little  consideration  will  suffice  to 
show  that  their  bark  is  worse  than  their  bite,  and  that,  after 
all,  there  is  nothing  so  dreadfully  radical  in  the  proposition 
as  to  necessitate  loss  of  sleep  or  visions  of  speedy  bank- 
ruptcy. The  great  conflagrations  of  the  world  have  not 
been  due  to  elemental  disruptions,  as  a  rule,  beyond  the 
control  of  man,  but  rather  to  acts  of  deliberate  careless- 
ness or  thoughtlessness,  which  might  easily  have  been 
avoided.  And  so  it  is  with  fires  in  hotels;  they  constitute 
a  real  peril  which  annually  reaps  a  rich  harvest  of  lives  and 
property, — a  minimum  of  precaution  and  the  harvest  would 
not  be  garnered. 

The  following  examples  of  hotel  fires  which  might  have 
been  avoided  are  selected  from  a  list  prepared  by  "Insur- 
ance Engineering,"  a  monthly  publication  devoted  to  the 
science  of  fire  control.  "Brockville,  Ontario,  Canada. 
Strathcona  Hotel.  Cause,  overheated  furnace  in  basement. 
Discovered  by  clerk  at  4.45  in  the  morning.  No  private 
appliances.  Fire  Department  handicapped  by  delayed  alarm 
and  lack  of  sufficient  apparatus  with  which  to  fight  the  fire. 
Loss  considerable."  Overheated  furnaces  are  a  source  of 
such  constant  trouble  that  the  heating  plant  should  always 
be  isolated  and  situated  in  a  fireproof  room,  though  a  case 
is  recorded  from  Chicago  in  which  it  was  found  that  the 
heat  from  the  firebox  of  a  boiler  was  so  intense  that  it  ig- 
nited some  sheets  of  music  on  the  other  side  of  a  thick  brick 
wall.  Hence,  isolation  cannot  be  too  carefully  ensured. 
"Chicago.  York  Hotel.  Cause  of  fire,  defective  electric 
wiring.  Discovered  by  watchman,  3.16  A.  Mv  in  partition 
in  first  story.  Fire  department  immediately  notified.  Fire 
spread  to  roof  in  hollow  finish.  Private  fire  protection 
poor.  Firemen  who  arrived  promptly  helped  guests  to 


174  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

escape  by  stairs.  Loss  nominal,  owing  to  the  prompt  and 
effective  work  of  the  fire  department."  Defective  electric 
wiring  is  too  frequent  a  cause  of  fire,  and  can  easily  be 
avoided  by  regular  inspection.  It  is  then  the  safest  method 
of  illumination  in  the  world.  A  word  may  here  be  inserted 
about  "hollow  finish."  This  is  the  system  whereby  spaces 
are  left  between  the  outside  covering  of  a  wall,  ceiling 
or  floor  in  the  main  constructional  work.  Such  cavities, 
if  subjected  to  fire,  are  a  source  of  serious  danger,  since 
the  air  therein  encourages  the  flames,  whereas,  if  built  up 
flush,  this  danger  disappears.  "Rimouski,  P.  Q.  St.  Ger- 
mains  Hotel.  Three  story,  wood.  Cause,  hot  stovepipe  on 
the  floor  of  the  second  story.  Fire  spread  through  hollow 
wall  finish.  Loss,  total."  "Charleston,  Ont.  Grand  View 
Hotel.  Cause,  oil  heater  in  pool-room.  Fire  spread  to  other 
buildings  and  caused  a  conflagration.  Loss,  $200,000." 
These  are  good  examples  of  how  fires  occur  through  de- 
fective heating  arrangements.  It  seems  scarcely  necessary 
to  insist  that  in  any  building,  stovepipes  should  be  most 
carefully  protected,  while  oil  stoves,  as  heaters,  should  be 
abolished  in  toto.  "Akron,  Ohio.  Thuma  Hotel.  Five 
stories,  brick,  ordinary  construction,  hollow  finish.  Cause, 
grease  fire  on  range  of  kitchen  in  basement  ignited  coating 
of  grease  in  vent  shaft  which  passed  upward  through  build- 
ing, part  of  the  way  between  the  ceiling  finish  of  the  second 
story  and  the  floor  of  the  third.  Fire  Department  re- 
sponded quickly  to  a  box  alarm  and  fought  fire  for  six 
hours.  When  the  firemen  arrived  the  fire  was  general 
throughout  the  building.  Owing  to  the  effective  work  of 
the  firemen  the  loss  was  limited  to  twenty-five  per  cent. 
of  the  values."  Vent  ducts  from  kitchen  ranges  are  pe- 
culiarly liable  to  ignition  since,  in  course  of  time,  the  pipes 
become  coated  with  a  thick  deposit  of  inflammable  grease. 
Should  this  catch  fire,  great  heat  is  generated,  and  the  duct 
becoming  red  hot,  will  ignite  any  wood  adjacent  to  it. 
Hence,  every  precaution  should  be  adopted  for  the  isola- 
tion of  these  vents,  so  that,  in  the  event  of  an  outbreak, 
they  may  burn  out  without  causing  more  serious  trouble. 


THE    HOTEL   PERIL  175 

Of  the  inconsequent  carelessness  of  hotel  employees,  a 
whole  volume  might  easily  be  compiled.  The  following 
are,  however,  good  examples:  "Salina,  Kansas.  National 
Hotel.  Fire  started  in  the  basement,  in  laundry  chute  into 
which  a  cigar  butt  had  been  thrown.  The  chute  was  of 
wood  and  extended  from  basement  to  roof,  with  unprotected 
openings  in  each  story.  The  fire  was  discovered  by  the 
hotel  porter,  but  an  alarm  was  not  sent  to  the  fire  depart- 
ment. The  notification  to  which  it  responded  was  the  fire 
itself  which  was  seen  by  several  firemen.  The  hotel  had 
been  inspected  by  the  fire  department,  and  the  owner  warned 
against  the  dangerous  construction  and  arrangement  of  the 
chute."  "Missoula,  Montana.  Florence  Hotel.  Three 
story,  brick,  ordinary  construction,  hollow  finish,  unpro- 
tected floor  openings.  Fire  started  in  elevator  shaft  in 
the  rear  of  building,  and  was  caused  by  a  can  of  hot  ashes 
set  on  the  platform  of  the  elevator  car.  Fire  was  dis- 
covered at  II  A.  M.  by  a  clerk,  who  promptly  transmitted 
the  alarm  to  the  fire  department.  The  flames  traveled  up 
elevator  shaft,  and  'mushroomed'  in  the  attic,  between  the 
ceiling  of  the  top  story  and  the  roof.  A  partition  in  the 
attic,  between  the  main  building  and  a  wing,  assisted  the 
firemen  in  checking  further  spread  of  fire.  It  took  five  hours 
to  suppress  the  blaze." 

The  carelessness  of  hotel  servants  is  proverbial,  and  to 
make  them  realize  the  danger  of  the  thoughtless  throwing 
away  of  an  oily  rag,  the  improper  disposal  of  rubbish,  or 
of  an  unextinguished  cigarette  or  cigar  end  may  not  in- 
aptly be  compared  with  the  labours  of  Sisyphus.  When 
it  is  remembered,  that  in  some  large  hotels  the  staff  em- 
ployed number  about  two  thousand  souls,  the  extent  of  the 
mischief  can  be  gauged.  And  if  servants  are  careless,  what 
of  guests?  Contemplate  the  following:  "Tacoma,  Wash- 
ington. Grand  Hotel.  Four  story,  brick,  ordinary  construc- 
tion. Fire  started  at  5.35  p.  M.,  and  was  caused  by  a  man 
smoking  in  bed/  It  was  discovered  quickly  by  other  guests, 
and  the  fire  department  responding  promptly,  controlled  the 
outbreak  so  that  the  loss  was  limited  to  $17,000."  Com- 


176  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

ment  really  seems  to  be  needless  and  the  protection  of  th 
individual  against  himself  has  not  added  to  the  lightening 
of  the  burden  of  those  responsible.  But  probably  the  mos 
terrible  exemplification  of  the  mischief  which  can  b 
wrought  by  a  thoughtless  visitor  is  embodied  in  the  stor 
of  the  Windsor  Hotel  fire.  This  building  occupied  th 
entire  block  on  the  east  side  of  Fifth  Avenue  in  New  Yor] 
City,  between  Forty-sixth  and  Forty-seventh  streets.  I 
was  of  antique  construction,  with  wide  halls,  high  ceiling 
and  several  elevator  shafts.  On  the  I7th  of  March  at 
p.  M.  a  guest  in  a  front  parlor  on  the  second  floor  lighte* 
a  cigar  and  threw  the  still  blazing  match  into  the  streel 
As  it  passed  the  curtains,  the  latter  ignited  and  in  an  instan 
were  in  flames.  Without  attempting  to  extinguish  the  blaz 
or  to  give  an  alarm,  the  author  of  the  disaster  fled  fror 
the  room,  and  a  few  moments  afterwards  the  head  waitei 
in  passing  the  door,  caught  sight  of  the  fire,  which,  by  tha 
time,  had  greatly  increased.  Unaided  he  made  a  brav 
effort  to  subdue  it,  but  his  hands  were  badly  burned  and  i 
was  easy  to  see  that  more  help  was  needed.  The  St.  Pat 
rick's  Day  parade  was  passing  at  the  time.  The  street 
were  lined  with  spectators  and  guarded  by  policemen,  in 
terested  onlookers  were  leaning  out  of  the  windows  of  th 
hotel  itself  and  the  strains  of  many  brass  bands  deadene< 
all  other  sound.  As  the  head  waiter  calling,  "Fire,"  ran  int 
the  street  and  endeavoured  to  reach  an  alarm  box  which,  ur 
fortunately,  was  situated  on  the  other  side  of  Fifth  Avenue 
he  was  prevented  from  crossing  by  a  puzzled  policemar 
who  could  not  understand  the  excited  man's  incoherer 
explanations  above  the  din  of  the  music.  But  the  smok 
and  flames  soon  told  their  own  story  and  a  first,  seconc 
and  finally  a  fourth  alarm  were  sent  in.  Owing  to  the  con 
struction  of  the  building  the  flames  ascended  both  by  wa 
of  the  halls  and  in  and  out  of  windows  to  the  top  floe 
with  great  rapidity.  In  spite  of  the  desperate  efforts  o 
the  part  of  the  fire  department,  who  were  handicapped  b 
a  poor  water  supply,  before  4  P.  M.  the  hotel  was  in  ruin 
A  little  later  the  only  wall  to  remain  standing  slid  dow 


THE   HOTEL   PERIL  177 

to  its  base  like  a  closing  fan.  By  7  p.  M.  the  fire  was  under 
control  and  the  safety  of  adjoining  property  was  assured. 
Of  the  many  guests  and  servants  who  had  been  watching 
the  procession,  fourteen  were  dead  and  about  fifty  injured. 
Some  of  them  had  attempted  to  use  the  safety  ropes  which 
had  been  placed  in  each  bed-room,  but  the  friction  on  their 
hands  became  too  great  and  they  were  forced  to  let  go  and 
meet  their  doom  in  the  streets.  One  handsomely  dressed 
woman  on  the  fourth  floor  held  out  her  arms  as  though 
imploring  aid  from  above,  then  without  a  cry  she  jumped, 
turning  over  and  over  as  she  fell  until  she  struck  the  iron 
railing  below.  At  one  window  appeared  a  woman  bearing 
in  her  arms  a  child.  Terrified  by  the  flames  which  were 
licking  the  sill  from  the  floor  beneath,  she  threw  the  child 
into  the  street  and  an  instant  later  followed.  Many  rescues 
were  effected  by  the  firemen  who  mounted  on  ladders  and 
dragged  to  safety  some  of  the  occupants,  and  if  others  had 
not  been  panic-stricken  by  the  proximity  of  danger,  and  had 
possessed  sufficient  courage  to  await  the  arrival  of  help, 
many  of  those  who  jumped  to  death  might  have  been  saved. 
Behind  the  hotel,  and  connected  with  it  from  the  interior, 
was  a  Russian  bath  establishment,  where  a  number  of  pat- 
rons were  enjoying  the  pleasures  of  treatment.  They  were 
obliged  to  make  the  best  of  their  way  out  clad  in  sheets, 
towels,  or  whatever  articles  of  clothing  were  nearest  to 
hand.  Two  men  in  the  hotel  who  were  vainly  hunting 
for  a  fire  escape  were  met  by  a  trained  nurse,  who  said 
that  she  could  conduct  them  through  her  room  to  the  object 
of  their  search.  When  they  had  entered,  however,  she  put 
her  back  against  the  door  and  told  them  that  they  must  as- 
sist her  in  carrying  her  patient,  a  helpless  old  lady  in  a 
wheeled  chair,  to  a  place  of  safety.  In  other  words,  this 
plucky  woman  had  invented  this  scheme  in  order  to  save 
the  life  of  her  charge,  and  the  men,  infected  by  her  cour- 
age did  as  requested,  and  all  four  gained  the  street  without 
mishap.  All  this  owing  to  an  act  of  carelessness  on  the 
part  of  a  visitor,  whose  identity,  by  the  way,  has  never 
been  discovered  to  this  day. 


1 78  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

Prevention  is,  of  course,  better  than  cure,  but  next  to 
that  is  promptness  of  action,  both  direct  and  indirect.  That 
is  to  say,  an  outbreak  of  fire  should  be  detected  as  soon  as 
possible,  which  may  be  accomplished  either  automatically  by 
sprinklers,  by  a  watchman,  who  registers  his  inspection 
visits  on  a  clock,  or  by  both.  It  must  never  be  forgotten 
that  every  minute  lost  means  ten  times  the  additional  risk. 
The  following  type  of  case  is,  unfortunately,  too  common. 
"Sioux  City,  Iowa.  Mondamin  Hotel.  Four  stories  brick, 
ordinary  construction,  unprotected  floor  openings.  Fire 
started  8.20  p.  M.  in  boiler  room  in  basement.  Discovered 
by  outsider  who  transmitted  alarm.  Since  discovery  of  the 
fire  was  delayed,  fire  department  was  unable  to  control  it. 
Loss,  $120,000."  A  watchman,  at  ten  dollars  a  week,  would 
not  have  been  an  extravagant  rate  of  insurance. 

Again,  contrast  the  following:  "Lansing,  Michigan. 
Downey  Hotel.  Six  story,  brick,  ordinary  construction, 
hollow  finish,  unprotected  floor  openings.  Cause  of  fire, 
a  heated  bearing  in,  or  an  electrical  defect  at,  elevator 
motor  in  pent  house  over  roof  of  elevator  shaft.  Discov- 
ered, 5.59  P.  M.  by  hotel  employee.  Alarm  received  by 
fire  department,  6.25.  Fire  burned  until  8  A.  M.  next  day. 
Loss  over  $100,000."  "Little  Rock,  Arkansas.  Gleason's 
Hotel.  Four  story,  brick,  ordinary  construction,  hollow 
finish,  unprotected  floor  openings.  Fire  caused  by  electric 
motor  top  of  elevator  shaft.  Discovered  by  employee  at 
i. 08  A.  M.,  box  alarm  transmitted  immediately.  Fire  con- 
trolled in  thirty  minutes,  and  confined  to  locality  of  origin. 
Loss,  $2,300,  less  than  three  per  cent,  of  values."  A  better 
exemplification  of  the  advantages  of  prompt  action  could 
not  be  imagined.  The  notifying  of  guests  in  hotels  of  an 
outbreak  of  fire  is  of  supreme  importance,  since,  as  a  rule, 
such  outbreaks  occur  at  night  when  most  of  the  inmates 
are  asleep.  It  is  a  good  scheme  to  have  an  alarm  gong  fitted 
in  the  bed-rooms,  which  should  be  operated  from  the  re- 
ception bureau  or  other  central  position.  But  even  such 
methods  should  be  supplemented  by  personal  calls  from 
members  of  the  staff.  This  will  go  a  long  way  towards 


THE   HOTEL   PERIL  179 

preventing  a  panic,  of  which  there  is  a  danger  if  the  gong 
alone  is  used.  As  for  fire  escapes,  this  is  a  vast  and 
intricate  subject.  Time  and  again  have  persons  been  in- 
jured on  narrow  fire  escapes,  while,  as  stated  in  the  Wind- 
sor hotel  fire,  a  rope  provides  only  a  last  and  desperate 
means  of  exit.  Some  hotels  are  now  erected  with  fire 
escape  towers,  which  completely  cut  off  the  flames  and  in- 
sure an  open  road  to  safety.  But  it  is  impossible  to  lay 
down  any  hard  and  fast  rules  for  the  construction  and 
placing  of  contrivances,  since,  to  a  certain  extent,  the  de- 
sign of  the  building  must  be  taken  into  consideration. 
And  in  all  cases  sufficient  and  careful  thought  should 
be  given  to  these  matters.  It  seems  hardly  credible 
that  there  should  be  hotels  devoid  of  even  a  hand 
chemical  grenade,  yet  fire  chiefs  frequently  report  that  such 
is  the  case.  Every  establishment  of  a  certain  size  should 
not  only  be  properly  equipped  with  hand  and  chemical  ex- 
tinguishers, but  should  also  be  possessed  of  a  private  fire 
department.  The  formation  of  such  an  organization  offers 
no  particular  difficulty,  and  in  the  opinion  of  the  writer,  is 
as  worthy  of  advertisement  in  hotel  announcements  as  such 
hackneyed  phrases  as  "unsurpassed  cuisine,"  "moderate 
terms,"  and  "unrivalled  view."  The  casual  visitor  would 
sleep  just  as  soundly  were  he  deprived  of  those  three  re- 
markable benefits,  but  he  might  be  forgiven  for  passing 
a  restless  night  were  he  haunted  by  the  terrors  of  fire  due 
to  "poor  fire  control."  And  now  to  come  to  an  all-engross- 
ing portion  of  the  theme  under  discussion,  namely,  why 
fires  spread  rapidly  in  hotels.  In  nearly  all  such  buildings 
there  is  a  lack  of  subdivision  of  floor  area,  though  in  some 
cities  an  interior  wall  of  incombustible  material  is  required 
between  every  set  of  four  rooms,  this  extending  from  foun- 
dations to  roof.  In  one  of  the  latest  New  York  hotels, 
the  partitions  between  rooms  are  of  hollow  tile,  the  doors 
of  steel  and  the  transoms  glazed  with  wire-glass;  even  the 
trim  and  picture  mouldings  are  of  metal.  That  this  is  the 
very  height  of  perfection  in  fire  control  may  be  gathered 
from  the  fact  that  in  this  same  hotel  an  outbreak  recently 


180  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

occurred  amongst  some  furniture  stored  on  an  upper  floor. 
The  furniture  was  completely  destroyed,  but  the  room  was 
habitable  twenty- four  hours  later,  while  the  adjoining 
premises  were  unharmed.  Unprotected  floor  openings,  like 
the  poor,  are  ever  with  us,  and  embody  the  most  glaring 
structural  defects  imaginable.  Their  retention  is  virtually 
a  crime,  especially  considering  the  facility  with  which  this 
risk  can  be  remedied.  Cases  without  number  might  be 
cited  of  the  prominent  part  played  by  this  avoidable  fault 
in  hotel  conflagrations,  but  the  two  following  may  be  quoted 
as  typical.  At  a  hotel  in  a  Kansas  city,  the  stairway  en- 
circled the  elevator  shaft — a  form  of  suicidal  internal  ar- 
chitecture peculiarly  popular  in  England  and  on  the  con- 
tinent of  Europe.  The  fire  started  early  in  the  morning 
in  the  basement,  cutting  off  the  escape  of  the  guests,  many 
of  whom  jumped  from  windows,  while  others  slid  down 
ropes  made  of  bed  clothing.  The  other  hails  from  Oneon- 
ta,  New  York.  "Central  Hotel.  Fire  discovered  at  3.30 
A.  M.  under  basement  stairs  by  clerk.  No  private  fire  ap- 
pliances. Fire  department  handicapped  by  wires  in  street. 
Rope  fire  escapes  only.  Three  lives  lost."  In  such  terse 
language  is  summed  up  the  result  of  unprotected  floor  open- 
ings. Fire  and  smoke  naturally  ascend,  and  hence  it  is  of 
paramount  importance  that  not  only  should  stairways  and 
elevator  shafts,  dumb  waiters,  pipe  and  wire  chases,  be  of 
fireproof  construction,  but  each  opening,  should  be  entirely 
enclosed  by  fireproof  materials.  Elevators  and  stairways 
should  always  be  separated;  the  encircling  stair  and  the 
lattice  work  elevator  shaft  being  an  invention  of  the  fire 
fiend  himself.  The  shaft  of  an  elevator  may  well  be  com- 
pared to  a  factory  chimney.  Every  one  knows  that  the 
giant  smoke  stacks  which  dot  the  hillsides  of  any  manu- 
facturing neighbourhood,  have  not  been  erected  with  a  view 
to  the  picturesque.  Rather  is  their  purpose  strictly  utili- 
tarian, the  higher  the  chimney  the  greater  the  draught,  the 
fiercer  the  fire  and  the  more  tremendous  the  heat.  It  is 
exactly  the  same  with  an  elevator  shaft  with  a  fire  at  the 
bottom,  which,  if  closed  at  the  top  has  the  effect  of  draw- 


THE    HOTEL   PERIL  181 

ing  up  the  smoke  and  heat,  which  form  the  primal  obstacles 
to  escape  by  inmates  on  the  upper  floors.  Thereafter,  the 
fire  spreads  laterally  and  downward.  Hence,  these  shafts 
should  be  rendered  as  completely  "fire  tight"  as  compart- 
ments in  a  ship  are  constructed  "water  tight." 

Finally,  elevator  machinery  should  be  placed  at  the  top 
of  a  shaft,  as  the  lubricating  oil  and  grease  used  on  its 
running  parts  form  ready  material  for  the  flames.  The 
same  may  be  said  to  apply  to  stairways,  though  in  this  con- 
nection it  may  be  remarked  that  particular  attention  should 
be  paid  to  the  basement  and  attic  entrances  of  the  same,  as 
it  sometimes  occurs  that  these  are  left  unguarded,  and  these 
two  points  constitute,  as  a  rule,  the  beginning  and  the  end 
of  hotel  fires.  Interior  light  courts  are  also  a  source  of 
danger,  especially  when  roofed  over.  All  windows  looking 
onto  such  courts  should  be  glazed  with  wire  glass,  and, 
as  a  matter  of  fact,  light  wells  should  never  be  roofed. 
As  regards  "hollow  finish,"  the  following  two  examples 
explain  the  danger  more  succinctly  than  columns  of  tech- 
nicalities: "Putnam,  Connecticut.  Chickering  Hotel. 
Three  stories  and  basement,  wood  walls,  ordinary  construc- 
tion, hollow  finish,  mansard  roof.  Fire  started  in  basement 
near  boiler,  discovered  at  1.30  A.  M.  by  a  passer-by.  Burned 
six  hours.  Loss  $19,000,  about  55  per  cent,  of  values.  Chief 
of  Fire  Department  said:  'The  fire  worked  up  inside 
partitions  to  the  roof.  There  was  not  a  square  yard  of 
flooring  burned  in  any  place.' '  "Excelsior  Springs,  Mis- 
souri. New  Elms  Hotel.  Three  story  and  basement  stone 
building.  Fire  started  at  1.30  A.  M.  in  coal  bin  outside  of 
building.  Discovered  promptly  and  quick  alarm  sent  in. 
No  private  fire  protection  and  fire  department  handicapped 
by  weak  water  pressure.  Fire  Chief's  reasons  for  spread  of 
fire  as  follows :  'There  were  no  fire  walls  in  the  building. 
There  were  wide  spaces  between  ceilings  and  floors  to  act 
as  "deadeners,"  and  it  was  through  these  spaces  that  the 
fire  spread  through  the  building  and  made  it  difficult  for 
firemen  to  get  water  at  the  right  place  at  the  right  time/  " 
This  system  of  introducing  "deadeners"  is  a  concession  to 


1 82  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

the  visitors,  who  naturally  enough  dislike  noise,  and  whc 
otherwise  would  be  disturbed  by  their  neighbours.  It  car 
be  rendered  safe  or  at  any  rate  partially  so,  by  rilling  uj 
these  spaces  either  with  asbestos  or  mineral  wool.  Ventila- 
tion systems  should  also  be  carefully  supervised,  as  on  occa 
sion  they  may  prove  responsible  for  serious  fire  risk.  Th< 
following  instance  is  illustrative  of  the  care  which  mus' 
be  exercised  over  hotel  design,  where,  be  it  remembered 
panic  is  above  all  else  to  be  avoided.  In  a  New  York  hote 
a  huge  volume  of  smoke  suddenly  filled  a  crowded  dining 
room.  The  cause  was  the  burning  of  a  heap  of  rubbisf 
which  had  been  placed  too  close  to  the  air  intake  of  the 
ventilating  fan,  which  draughted  the  smoke  and  blew  it  or 
through  the  ventilating  system.  Nothing  more  serious  thar 
the  annoyance  and  discomfort  of  the  guests  resulted,  bu1 
the  draperies  and  decorations  were  damaged  by  smoke 
Had  the  intake  been  located  higher  up,  or  had  it  been  ar- 
ranged to  close  with  movable  louvers  the  trouble  would  no 
have  occurred.  Fire  exposure  or  the  danger  to  be  appre- 
hended from  fires  originating  nearby  and  in  turn  communi- 
cating with  an  hotel  can  to  a  great  degree  be  guarded  againsl 
by  the  fitting  of  window  openings  with  hollow  metal  sashes 
glazed  with  wire-glass.  That  this  risk  is  not  so  remote 
as  might  be  supposed  may  be  seen  from  the  following 
"Oakland,  California.  St.  Mark's  Hotel.  Eight  stories 
reinforced  concrete.  Fire  started  in  sign  painter's  shop 
in  second  story  of  adjoining  building  and  burned  out  win- 
dows of  hotel,  which  were  sashed  with  wood."  "Kansas 
City,  Missouri.  Ormond  Hotel.  Five  stories,  brick.  Fire 
originated  in  garage  adjoining,  between  ceiling  of  first  and 
floor  of  second  story.  Cause,  defective  electric  wiring. 
Garage  employees  delayed  sending  in  an  alarm.  Fire  de- 
partment handicapped  by  headway  of  fire,  height  of  hotel 
and  weak  water  pressure.  Insurance  loss,  $140,000;  values 
$310,000."  It  goes  without  saying  that  hotels  as  frequently 
burn  other  buildings  and  that  these  remarks  may  be  taken 
as  being  applicable  to  all  houses  of  whatever  type.  Of 
course,  it  may  be  urged  that  this  use  of  wire-glass  is  deplor- 


THE   HOTEL   PERIL  183 

able  from  an  aesthetic  point  of  view,  which  with  some  peo- 
ple counts  for  more  than  common  sense  and  the  protection 
of  life  and  limb.  For  such  artistic  souls  it  is  impossible  to 
cater,  though  it  is  fortunate  that  with  the  majority  of  the 
community  fire  risks  are  more  important  than  landscapes, 
however  inspiring. 

Which  introduces  the  conclusion  of  the  subject.  It  has 
been  demonstrated  ad  nauseam  in  the  preceding  pages 
that  hotel  fires  are  very  real  contingencies  against 
which  to  prepare,  and  it  has  been  shown  that  the  fire- 
proof hotel  is  not  yet  to  be  considered  as  practical  poli- 
tics. But  it  can  be  made  fire  resistive  and  that  with  a 
degree  of  certainty  which  will  minimize  the  risk  to  an  ap- 
preciable extent.  The  automatic  sprinkler  will  do  every- 
thing except  start  a  fire.  As  explained  elsewhere  its  con- 
struction is  simplicity  itself,  while  not  only  does  it  auto- 
matically damp  down  an  incipient  blaze,  but  in  addition  will 
operate  a  fire  alarm,  insuring  that  there  is  no  delay  on  the 
part  of  either  employees  or  fire  department  in  tackling  the 
enemy.  It  is  perfectly  possible  to  install  this  system  in  the 
public  rooms  of  an  hotel  and  yet  interfere  not  at  all  with 
the  decorative  scheme,  which  would  be  treason  in  the  eyes 
of  some.  In  one  building  so  protected,  the  sprinklers  num- 
ber no  less  than  1,600,  the  source  of  water  supply  being 
a  20,000  gallon  tank  elevated  twenty-five  feet  above  the 
roof,  and  two  six-inch  connections  with  the  city  main.  By 
this  method  it  is  possible  for  a  room  to  be  burnt  out  and 
the  fire  subdued,  without  the  damage  to  property  and  the 
excitement  amongst  guests  which  would  be  caused  by  the 
arrival  of  a  brigade  and  the  subsequent  operating  of  hose 
pipes  through  the  hall  and  stairways  and  through  windows. 
The  sprinkler  system  is,  in  fact,  the  silent  guardian  of 
life  and  property,  which  "slumbers  not  nor  sleeps"  and 
which  can  be  relied  upon  as  a  rule.  A  rise  in  temperature 
1 60  degrees  Fahrenheit  on  the  floor  is  sufficient,  and  the 
sprinkler  starts  to  work,  sending  down  a  drenching  stream 
upon  the  affected  area  and  warning  all  and  sundry  that  there 
is  an  enemy  at  hand.  At  a  recent  fire  in  a  hotel  guarded 


1 84  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

in  this  fashion,  one  of  the  guests  rang  and  complained  oi 
a  water  pipe  located  just  above  his  bed,  which  had  bursl 
suddenly  and  awakened  him  from  his  beauty  sleep.  His 
indignation  was  unbounded  and  in  the  morning  he  de- 
manded an  apology  from  the  manager,  which  was  smiling!} 
forthcoming.  But  that  individual  did  not  think  it  neces- 
sary to  explain  to  the  irate  guest  that  the  room  above  his 
(an  unoccupied  one)  had  caught  fire  and  that  the  lives  oi 
some  five  hundred  guests  had  been  quietly  and  quicklj 
saved  by  an  inconspicuous  "sprinkler." 


CHAPTER  XIII 

THEATRES  AND  FIRE  PANICS 

THE  problems  affecting  fire  control  in  places  of  public 
amusement  are  amongst  the  most  intricate  demanding  solu- 
tion by  Fire  Departments.  For  here  the  human  element 
becomes  an  important  factor  in  the  situation,  and  though 
every  safeguard  scientific  ingenuity  can  devise  may  be 
adopted,  and  though  thousands  of  dollars  may  be  ex- 
pended in  the  installation  of  the  most  modern  and  com- 
plete equipment  of  that  nature,  it  lies  within  the  power  of 
one  small  boy  in  the  gallery,  who  thoughtlessly  calls  out 
"Fire,"  to  transform  an  assembly  of  happy  pleasure- 
seekers  into  a  shambles.  That  is  to  say,  unless  some 
scheme  of  controlling  an  audience  in  moments  of  emer- 
gency can  be  devised,  and  towards  this  end  many  fire  pro- 
tection associations  are  working.  Hence  in  treating  the 
subject  it  will  be  convenient  first  to  consider  the  active 
measures  demanded  by  municipalities  from  the  managers 
of  theatres  for  the  public  safety,  then  to  give  an  example 
of  an  actual  theatre  fire,  drawing  from  it  the  obvious 
deductions,  and  finally  to  touch  on  audiences  themselves. 

Broadly  speaking,  theatre  safety  depends  upon  the  situa- 
tion and  convenience  of  exits,  the  use  of  the  fireproof 
curtain  completely  separating  the  stage  from  the  audi- 
torium, the  installation  of  a  system  of  automatic  sprinklers 
in  places  where  much  inflammable  material  is  to  be  found, 
such  as  in  scenery  docks,  and  minute  attention  to  such 
details  as  the  provision  of  fireproof  scenery,  and  the  cag- 
ing in  of  all  lights,  electric  or  otherwise.  Perhaps  it  will  be 
simplest  to  give  the  regulations  suggested  for  or  existing  in 

185 


1 86  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

New  York  on  this  subject,  which  may  be  accepted  as  repre- 
senting the  standard  requirements. 

Standpipes  four  inches  in  diameter  must  be  provided 
with  hose  attachments  on  every  floor  and  gallery;  one 
on  each  side  of  the  auditorium  in  every  tier  and  one  on 
each  side  of  the  stage  in  every  tier.  In  addition  there 
must  be  at  least  one  in  the  property  room  and  one  in  the 
carpenter's  shop,  if  the  latter  be  contiguous  to  the  building. 
All  these  standpipes  must  be  kept  clear  from  obstruction 
and  be  fitted  with  the  regulation  couplings  of  the  fire  depart- 
ment. They  must  be  kept  constantly  filled  with  water  by 
means  of  an  automatic  power  pump  of  sufficient  capa- 
city to  supply  all  the  lines  of  hose  when  operated  simultan- 
eously. This  pump  must  be  ready  for  immediate  use  at  all 
times  during  a  performance.  A  separate  and  distinct  sys- 
tem of  automatic  sprinklers  with  fusible  plugs,  supplied 
with  water  from  a  tank  situated  on  the  roof  over  the  stage 
and  not  connected  in  any  manner  with  the  standpipes, 
must  be  placed  on  each  side  of  the  proscenium  opening 
and  on  the  ceiling  over  the  stage  at  sach  intervals  as  will 
protect  every  square  foot  of  stage  surface  when  they 
are  in  operation.  Wherever  practicable  these  sprinklers 
must  also  be  placed  in  the  dressing  rooms,  under  the  stage 
and  in  the  carpenter's  shop,  paint  rooms,  store  and  prop- 
erty rooms.  A  sufficient  quantity  of  hose  fitted  with  regu- 
lation couplings  and  with  nozzles  and  hose  spanners  must 
be  kept  attached  to  holders.  For  immediate  use  on  the 
stage  there  must  always  be  kept  in  readiness  four  casks 
full  of  water  and  two  buckets  to  each  cask;  all  to  be 
painted  red.  There  must  also  be  provided  hand-pumps  or 
other  portable  fire  extinguishing  apparatus,  and  at  least  four 
axes  and  six  hooks  of  different  lengths  on  each  floor  of  the 
stage. 

Every  portion  of  the  building  devoted  to  the  accommo- 
dation of  the  public,  as  also  all  outlets  leading  to  the 
streets,  must  be  well  and  properly  lighted  during  the  per- 
formance, and  the  lights  must  not  be  extinguished  until 
the  entire  audience  has  left  the  premises.  The  illumination 


MODERN    THEATRE.       NEW    YORK  CITY. 


THEATRES   AND    FIRE    PANICS  187 

of  all  parts  of  the  building  used  by  the  audience,  with 
the  exception  of  the  auditorium,  must  be  controlled  from 
the  lobby  by  a  separate  shut-off.  Gas  and  electric  mains 
supplying  the  theatre  must  have  independent  connections 
for  the  auditorium  and  the  stage,  and  provision  must  be 
made  for  shutting  off  the  gas  from  the  outside  of  the  build- 
ing. All  suspended  or  bracket  lights  surrounded  by  glass 
in  any  portion  of  the  theatre  used  by  the  public  must  be 
provided  with  wire  netting  protection.  No  gas  or  electric 
lights  must  be  inserted  in  the  walls,  woodwork,  ceilings  or 
in  any  part  of  the  building  unless  protected  by  fireproof 
materials.  The  footlights,  when  not  electric,  in  addition 
to  the  wire  network,  must  be  protected  with  a, strong  wire 
guard  and  chain  placed  not  less  than  two  feet  distant, 
and  the  trough  containing  the  footlights  must  be  com- 
posed of  and  surrounded  by  fireproof  material.  All  border 
lights  must  be  subject  to  the  approval  of  the  Department 
of  Buildings  and  be  suspended  for  ten  feet  by  wire  rope. 
All  stage  lights  must  have  strong  metal  wire  guards  not 
less  than  eight  inches  in  diameter  so  constructed  that  any 
material  in  contact  therewith  is  out  of  reach  of  the  flames. 
The  bridge  calcium  lights  at  the  sides  of  the  proscenium 
shall  be  enclosed  in  front  and  on  the  side  by  galvanized 
iron,  so  that  no  drop  can  come  in  contact  with  the  lights. 
Electric  calciums,  so  called,  are  included  in  the  above  re- 
quirements. Standpipes  and  all  apparatus  for  the  extinction 
of  fire  or  for  guarding  against  the  same,  must  be  in  charge 
and  under  the  control  of  the  fire  department,  and  the 
Commissioner  is  responsible  for  the  carrying  out  of  these 
regulations. 

A  diagram  of  each  tier,  gallery  or  floor  showing 
distinctly  the  exits  therefrom,  each  plan  occupying  a 
space  of  not  less  than  fifteen  square  inches,  must  be  legi- 
bly printed  in  black  lines  on  the  programme  of  every 
performance.  Every  exit  must  have  over  the  inside  of 
the  door  the  word  "EXIT/'  painted  in  legible  letters  not  less 
than  eight  inches  high.  All  exit  doors  must  open  out- 
wards and  be  fastened  with  movable  bolts,  which  must 


i88  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

be  kept  drawn  during  performances.  No  doors  shall  oper 
immediately  upon  a  flight  of  stairs,  but  a  landing  of  rea- 
sonable width  shall  be  allowed  between  them.  The  pros- 
cenium opening  must  be  provided  with  a  fireproof  meta! 
curtain  or  one  constructed  of  asbestos,  overlapping  the 
brick  proscenium  wall  at  each  side  not  less  than  twelve 
inches  and  sliding  vertically  at  each  side  within  iron  chan- 
nels of  a  depth  of  not  less  than  twelve  inches.  These 
grooves  must  be  securely  bolted  to  the  wall  and  must  ex- 
tend to  a  height  of  not  less  than  three  feet  above  the  toj 
of  the  curtain  when  raised  to  its  full  limit.  This  curtair 
should  be  raised  at  the  commencement  of  each  perform- 
ance, lowered  between  each  act  and  again  lowered  at  the 
end  of  the  performance.  This  system  is  now  regularl) 
in  force  in  Chicago.  If  the  curtain  be  made  of  asbestos 
that  material  must  be  reinforced  with  wire,  while  to  en- 
sure its  remaining  taut  and  its  easy  descent,  a  rigid  me- 
tallic bar  of  sufficient  weight  must  be  firmly  attached  to  it! 
base.  The  excess  weight  of  the  curtain  is  to  be  overcome 
by  a  check  rope  of  cotton  or  hemp,  extending  to  the  flooi 
on  both  sides  of  the  stage,  so  that  its  cutting  or  burning 
will  release  the  curtain,  which  will  then  descend  at  its  nor 
mal  rate  of  speed.  This  curtain  shall  at  no  point  be  nearei 
the  footlights  than  three  feet. 

As  regards  doorways,  none  shall  be  allowed  through  th< 
proscenium  from  the  auditorium  above  the  first  floor  anc 
all  doorways  shall  have  self  closing  standard  fire-door; 
on  each  side  of  the  wall.  Openings,  if  any,  below  the  stag< 
must  each  have  self-closing  fire-doors  and  all  such  door; 
must  be  hung  so  as  to  permit  of  opening  from  either  sid< 
at  all  times.  Near  the  centre  of  the  highest  part  of  th< 
stage  should  be  constructed  one  or  more  ventilators  o: 
incombustible  material,  extending  at  least  ten  feet  abov< 
the  stage  roof  and  of  an  area  equal  to  at  least  twelve  pe: 
cent,  of  the  area  within  the  stage  walls.  Openings  in  thes< 
ventilators  should  be  closed  by  valves  so  counterbalance 
as  to  open  automatically,  and  kept  shut  by  cords,  in  whicl 
must  be  inserted  a  fusible  link  at  a  point  near  the  botton 


THEATRES   AND   FIRE    PANICS  189 

of  the  ventilator.  This  cord  should  be  fastened  on  the 
stage  floor  level  near  the  prompter's  desk  so  that  in  case 
of  necessity  it  can  be  easily  reached  and  severed.  All  that 
portion  of  the  stage  not  comprised  in  the  working  of  scen- 
ery, traps  and  other  mechanical  apparatus  and  usually  equal 
to  the  width  of  the  proscenium  opening,  should  be  built 
of  fire  resisting  material.  The  fly  and  tie  galleries  should 
be  constructed  of  iron  or  steel,  while  the  gridiron  or  rigging 
loft  should  have  a  lattice  iron  floor,  and  be  readily  accessi- 
ble by  iron  stairways.  All  stage  scenery,  curtains  and 
decorations  and  all  woodwork  on  or  about  the  stage  should 
be  saturated  with  some  non-combustible  material,  and  this 
should  apply  likewise  to  all  finishing  coats  of  paint  given 
to  woodwork.  A  strong  feature  should  also  be  made  of 
a  careful  and  thorough  examination  before  and  after  a 
performance  of  all  fire  apparatus  by  the  firemen,  whether 
municipal  or  private,  attached  to  the  theatre  for  profes- 
sional duties.  This  in  brief  standardizes  the  main  features 
regarded  by  experts  as  embracing  the  minimum  demands 
consistent  with  the  safety  of  the  public  and  they  have  been 
given  in  some  detail,  since  shorn  of  picturesque  narrative, 
they  are  more  likely  to  receive  attention  from  the  serious 
minded. 

A  better  example  of  a  calamitous  fire  at  a  theatre  attended 
with  appalling  loss  of  life  could  not  be  selected  than  that 
of  the  Iroquois  Theatre  in  Chicago.  On  the  3Oth  of  De- 
cember, 1903,  two  thousand  women  and  children  crowded 
to  a  matinee  performance  of  a  musical  extravaganza  called 
"Mr.  Bluebeard."  The  theatre  had  the  reputation  of  being 
the  largest,  safest  and  newest  in  Chicago  and  had  seating 
accommodation  for  1,740  persons.  Holidays  were  in  full 
swing  and  being  the  last  afternoon  performance  of  the 
old  year  it  drew  hundreds  of  little  ones  with  their  happy 
parents  not  alone  from  the  city  itself,  but  from  many 
towns  in  the  vicinity.  The  house  was  consequently 
packed,  many  people  willingly  standing  at  the  backs  of 
the  galleries  in  order  to  see  the  celebrated  Eddie  Foy, 
the  chief  laugh  maker  of  the  play.  A  particularly  popular 


190  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

song  was  in  progress,  and  children  and  grown-ups  were 
absorbed  in  watching  eight  pretty  girls  and  eight  young 
men  singing  and  dancing  to  the  strains  of  the  fine  orchestra, 
when  suddenly  a  large  piece  of  burning  muslin  border 
fell  upon  the  stage.  Unknown  to  actors  and  audience  the 
"spotlight"  had  fused,  or  so  it  was  suspected,  and  stage 
hands  with  sticks  had  been  fighting  the  fire  for  some 
moments  in  the  wings  before  this  ominous  ^herald  made 
its  unwelcome  appearance  in  full  view  of  all.  The  singers 
gasped  and  wavered;  the  orchestra  ceased  with  a  crash. 
For  the  space  of  a  heart-beat  there  was  silence.  Then  a 
curious  figure  bearing  a  small  child  staggered  from  the 
wings  to  the  footlights.  It  was  Eddie  Foy  and  the  child 
was  his  son.  Hurriedly  he  passed  the  boy  to  the  con- 
ductor and  the  grotesque  appearance  of  the  comedian,  clad 
only  .in  his  tights  and  minus  half  his  grease  paint,  momen- 
tarily distracted  the  attention  of  the  audience  from  the 
flames  behind  him.  "For  God's  sake  play  and  keep  on 
playing,"  he  implored  the  leader  of  the  orchestra  in  hushed 
tones,  and  the  musicians  responded  to  his  appeal  with  trem- 
bling hands  and  uncertain  fingers. 

Meanwhile,  desperate  efforts  were  being  made  to  lower 
the  fireproof  curtain,  which  bellying  in,  owing  to  the  draught 
from  the  auditorium,  jammed  and  descended  only  a  few 
feet.  As  the  flames  spurted  from  beneath  its  edge,  a 
woman's  shriek  rang  out  and  of  the  horror  which  ensued 
few  of  the  survivors  can  bring  themselves  to  speak.  Fire 
and  smoke  driven  from  the  stage  swept  up  to  the  gal- 
leries, where  a  panic  had  already  started.  Mothers  wrap- 
ping their  arms  about  their  children,  were  trampled  under 
foot  in  the  wild  rush  of  despair.  Then  the  stage  loft  col- 
lapsed., A  column  of  flame  rose  from  the  ground  to 
the  ceiling  and  the  theatre  was  plunged  in  darkness, 
while  the  battle  of  life  continued  in  one  crescendo 
of  horror.  All  unconscious  of  the  tragedy  being  en- 
acted within  a  stone's  throw,  some  painters  in  a  build- 
ing opposite  one  of  the  balcony  exits  suddenly  saw 
a  man  standing  on  the  escape.  As  they  looked,  the 


THEATRES   AND   FIRE   PANICS  191 

red  glare  of  fire  on  the  story  below  him  showed  them  that 
his  way  to  safety  had  been  cut  off  and  that  his  need  was 
desperate.  Running  out  a  ladder  from  their  window  to 
where  he  stood  they  urged  him  to  cross;  but  ladder  and 
man  slipped  from  the  coping  and  plunged  with  a  sickening 
thud  into  the  street  below.  And  now,  more  crazed  crea- 
tures were  making  their  way  to  this  narrow  platform  and 
of  them,  twelve  were  drawn  to  safety  on  some  planks.  By 
this  time,  however,  the  fire  was  above,  beside  and  beneath 
them,  and  women  and  children  packed  like,  sardines,  help- 
less to  move,  were  roasted  slowly  alive  before  the  eyes  of 
their  would-be  rescuers.  When  the  firemen  succeeded  in 
entering  the  charnel  house  they  were  confronted  by  a  wall 
of  bodies  ten  feet  in  height  and  seven  feet  in  width.  It 
was  impossible  to  believe  that  amongst  these  distorted  forms 
could  have  remained  any  living  person,  but  the  Fire  Mar- 
shal called  to  the  surrounding  silence,  "Is  there  any  one 
living  here?'*  There  was  no  reply,  and  the  men  made  their 
way  over  this  ghastly  barricade  in  search  of,  perchance, 
one  survivor. 

Out  of  the  two  thousand  merry-makers  who  had  entered 
the  theatre,  buoyant  with  happy  expectations,  six  hundred 
and  two  were  carried  to  the  morgue.  It  was  found  by  the 
exploring  firemen  that  those  in  the  second  balcony  had 
suffered  most  in  their  futile  efforts  to  descend  the  stairs. 
The  sight  was  a  horrible  one.  Wedged  in  a  solid  mass, 
which  had  practically  lost  all  semblance  of  humanity,  were 
what  had  once  been  men,  women  and  children,  twisted 
and  entwined  together  in  their  death  struggles.  In  the 
vise-like  grip  of  usually  feeble  hands  were  found  bits  of 
cloth,  fragments  of  jewellery  and  strands  of  hair  evidently 
wrenched  from  their  possessors  in  that  hideous  carnival  of 
terror.  One  poor  woman  from  being  bent  back  over  a 
seat  had  not  only  a  broken  spine,  but  had  become  prac- 
tically dismembered  through  the  pressure  placed  upon  her, 
while  in  many  instances  faces  had  become  so  distorted  as 
to  be  unrecognizable  even  to  near  relatives.  Others  who 
had  bravely  kept  their  seats  and  withstood  the  spur  of 


192  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

panic  fear  had  been  overcome  by  smoke  and  gas  and  at 
least  had  received  as  their  reward  a  peaceful  death.  A 
fire  captain  observing  one  of  his  men  carrying  the  body 
of  a  girl  called  to  him,  "We've  got  no  time  for  that  sort 
of  thing  now,  we  must  get  on."  To  his  surprise  the  man 
raised  a  tear-stained  face  and  said  brokenly,  "Captain,  I've 
got  one  of  my  own  about  this  age,  so  if  you  don't  mind 
I'll  carry  this  little  one  out."  The  Captain  silently  handed 
him  a  blanket  and,  unrebuked,  he  bore  his  sad  burden  to 
the  door. 

Those  there  were,  whose  hearts  were  too  hardened  to 
be  touched  by  the  piteous  spectacle,  which  had  unnerved 
the  strongest  minded.  These  unspeakable  creatures  lurked 
and  crouched  in  corners  waiting  for  the  opportunity  to 
pull  a  ring  from  a  powerless  hand  or  to  wrench  a  brooch 
from  a  motionless  form.  Over  the  scenes  at  the  identifi- 
cation it  is  unnecessary  to  linger,  suffice  it  to  say  that  so 
widespread  was  the  sympathy  evoked  by  this  terrible  catas- 
trophe, that  for  many  days  following  Chicago  was  a  city  of 
mourning,  all  festivities  being  suspended. 

The  distressing  incidents  accompanying  this  outbreak 
have  not  been  dwelt  upon  with  the  idea  of  satiating  a  mor- 
bid curiosity,  but  rather  because  they  bring  home  forcibly 
to  the  general  reader  some  notion  of  what  a  theatre  panic 
really  means.  To  how.  many  has  the  question  ever  oc- 
curred when  seated  at  a  theatre  and  enjoying  a  play,  "What 
should  I  do  if  some  one  shouted  Tire'  now?  Should  I 
push  and  fight  and  struggle  or  should  I  remain  calmly 
in  my  place?"  It  is  this  question  of  the  personal  equa- 
tion which  makes  fire  control  in  theatres  a  problem,  at  once 
perplexing  and  all-important.  Obviously,  the  first  step 
towards  the  safety  of  theatre  audiences  must  come  from 
a  properly  equipped  and  constructed  building.  Next,  the 
records  of  almost  every  theatre  disaster  show  that  the 
critical  moment  in  determining  the  fate  of  the  audience 
is  that  immediately  following  the  first  indication  of  alarm. 
Hence  the  training  of  theatre  attendants  should  be  directed 
rather  towards  the  prevention  of  panic  than  to  the  regula- 


THEATRES   AND   FIRE   PANICS  193 

tion  of  the  movements  of  a  panic-stricken  audience.  For 
one  thing,  the  wide  disparity  in  numbers  between  the 
available  house  force  and  the  audience  would  clearly  ren- 
der abortive  any  attempt  at  such  regulation.  There  are, 
however,  well-defined  principles,  which  if  carefully  ob- 
served will  materially  assist  in  directing  the  movements 
of  an  audience  in  case  of  fire.  Firstly,  to  ensure  the  best 
results,  all  employees  permanently  connected  with  the  thea- 
tre should  be  organized  into  exit  drill  companies,  each  in- 
dividual member  being  assigned  a  special  duty.  While 
it  is  both  necessary  and  important  that  the  individual  units 
of  these  companies  should  be  instructed  in  the  handling 
and  use  of  fire  equipment  and  grounded  in  the  rudiments 
of  fire  extinction,  the  paramount  consideration  is  the  safety 
of  the  audience  and  every  available  means  should  be  util- 
ized of  rendering  assistance  to  the  ushers  whose  busi- 
ness it  is  to  obtain  its  prompt  and  orderly  departure. 
All  fire  signals  should  be  transmitted  by  an  electrically 
operated  alarm  system,  the  recording  apparatus  of  which 
should  be  placed  in  the  main  business  office,  the  box  office 
and  the  stage  manager's  office.  Upon  receipt  of  an  alarm 
by  the  stage  manager,  or  when  fire  is  discovered  in  the 
stage  section  before  an  alarm  is  struck,  the  curtain  should 
be  dropped  immediately  and  the  stage  manager,  one  of  the 
actors,  or  the  fireman  on  duty  should  go  before  the  cur- 
tain and  announce  the  discontinuance  of  the  performance. 
Upon  the  wording  of  that  announcement  and  manner  of 
its  delivery  will  largely  depend  the  behaviour  of  the  au- 
dience and  hence  it  is  strongly  recommended  that  a  form 
of  announcement  should  be  prepared  in  advance  and  copies 
thereof  placed  in  the  hands  of  the  various  stage  employees. 
It  should  be  brief  and  to  the  point. 

Something  after  the  following  is  recommended : 
"I  am  instructed  by  the  management  to  announce  that 
it  will  be  necessary  to  discontinue  the  performance 
and  immediately  to  dismiss  the  audience.  Every 
one  in  leaving  the  house  should  implicitly  follow 
the  directions  of  the  ushers  stationed  in  each  aisle." 


194  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

Of  course,  the  use  of  music,  a  lively  march  or  something 
of  a  stirring  character,  is  an  excellent  means  of  keeping  an 
audience  in  hand  and  getting  them  away  without  unneces- 
sary fuss  or  excitement.  But  this  again  presupposes  an 
element  of  control  over  the  orchestra,  which  it  would  be 
almost  impossible  to  ensure,  unless  the  same  musicians 
were  permanently  employed  and  the  management  were 
satisfied  that  they  could  be  relied  upon  to  do  their  duty 
in  case  of  emergency.  Otherwise,  obviously,  they  would 
be  worse  than  useless  and  would  probably  only  augment 
signs  of  unrest  in  the  most  undesirable  quarters. 

Another  excellent  method  would  appear  to  be  to  have 
a  large  plan  of  the  theatre,  with  exits  clearly  marked, 
painted  upon  the  fire  curtain  and  exhibited  for  a  few  mo- 
ments during  each  entre-act. 

After  the  announcement  of  the  cessation  of  the  per- 
formance has  been  made  from  the  stage,  the  ushers  should 
move  forward  to  their  respective  aisles  and  by  word  of 
mouth  should  quietly  instruct  their  charges  as  to  the  speed- 
iest way  to  the  street.  For  the  assignment  of  exits  the 
seat-plan  on  each  floor  should  be  divided  into  sections  and  to 
each  section  there  should  be  assigned  certain  exits  accord- 
ing to  the  relative  discharging  capacities,  so  that  the  time 
required  for  discharging  the  number  apportioned  to  any  one 
exit  would  average  about  the  same  for  all.  Each  usher 
and  doorman  should  be  provided  with  a  copy  of  the  seating 
plan,  on  which  should  be  indicated  the  exit  assignments 
in  detail.  Ushers  should,  of  course,  be  required  to  remain 
on  duty  by  their  respective  exits  during  all  performances. 
Fire  alarm  boxes  should  be  placed  in  positions  where 
they  can  be  conveniently  reached,  but  never  in  view  of 
the  audience.  For  the  average  theatre,  there  should  be  a 
box  on  each  side  of  the  parquet  on  the  wall  and  in  the 
rear  of  the  last  row  of  seats  as  well  as  one  in  the  front  hall. 
For  balcony  and  galleries  there  should  be  also  two  boxes, 
one  on  each  side  behind  the  last  row  of  seats.  For  the 
stage  there  should  be  one  box  on  the  rear  wall,  a  box  on 
each  side  near  the  proscenium  wall  and,  when  necessary, 


THEATRES   AND   FIRE   PANICS  195 

boxes  in  dressing  rooms  and  the  carpenter's  shop.  The 
boxes  in  the  auditorium  should  above  all  else  operate  as 
noiselessly  as  possible,  as  a  signal  therefrom  heard  by  an  au- 
dience would  be  probably  more  productive  of  panic  than 
even  the  sight  of  the  actual  fire.  All  theatres  should  be  in 
direct  communication  with  fire  headquarters. 

The  system  of  assigning  regular  or  pensioned  firemen 
in  uniform  or  of  maintaining  private  firemen  in  uniform, 
where  the  regular  force  may  be  unduly  depleted  by  such 
assignment  to  theatres,  is  to  be  commended.  Their  presence 
undoubtedly  does  much  to  inspire  confidence  and  reassure 
an  audience  in  moments  of  excitement,  while  naturally  their 
superior  knowledge  and  skill  enables  them  to  render  valu- 
able assistance  when  required.  Finally  there  should  be 
prominently  displayed  illuminated  signs  not  only  over  the 
exits  themselves,  but  in  all  conspicuous  places,  with  arrows 
indicating  the  shortest  and  easiest  route  by  which  the  street 
may  be  reached. 

No  doubt  the  writer  will  be  told  that  he  has  suggested 
counsels  of  perfection  and  that  if  the  caution  practical 
experience  demands  in  theatres,  and  which  is  embodied 
in  this  chapter,  became  law,  theatrical  managers  would 
spend  all  their  time  in  looking  after  minute  details  and 
audiences  would  resent  being  treated  like  children.  Yet, 
as  a  matter  of  fact,  in  moments  of  crisis  grown  people 
are  very  often  akin  to  children,  which  is  evidenced  by 
the  fact  that  under  such  circumstances  it  is  extraordinary 
how  few  otherwise  level-headed  persons  will  for  one  mo- 
ment think  of  leaving  a  theatre  by  any  other  door  than 
that  through  which  they  entered,  quite  irrespective  of 
convenience  of  location.  And  hence  it  is  that  those  in 
control  must  devise  means  to  prevent  them  doing  just  those 
things  which  are  worst  for  them,  even  at  the  risk  of  some 
unpopularity.  And  a  fire  in  a  theatre  or  a  panic  arising 
from  an  alarm  of  one,  as  has  been  shown,  may  lead  to 
such  ghastly  results  that  it  becomes  the  duty  of  all  municipal 
governments  to  do  all  in  their  power  to  prevent  such  an 
occurrence.  The  writer,  without  wishing  to  appear  ex- 


196  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

treme,  is  of  opinion  that  some  limitation  should  be  placec 
upon  the  seating  capacity  of  theatres  as  distinct  fron 
stadia  and  places  of  that  nature.  An  audience  of  i,8o< 
is  sufficient  to  tax  all  the  resources  of  those  responsible  ii 
emergencies  and  is  about  the  maximum  number  whicl 
can  conveniently  and  quickly  pass  out  of  any  theatn 
without  causing  untold  confusion  in  the  street,  which  wil 
in  its  turn  hamper  the  fire  forces.  Equally,  however,  ; 
theatre  run  along  the  lines  indicated  will  not  only  promis 
the  maximum  of  safety,  but  without  exaggeration  will  af 
ford  its  patrons  a  greater  amount  of  security  than  as  a  rul 
they  will  find  in  their  own  homes. 


CHAPTER  XIV 

THE    HIGH    PRESSURE    SYSTEM 

THE  decisive  feature  governing  fire-fighting  in  all  coun- 
tries and  under  all  conditions  may  in  every  case  be  summed 
up  in  the  two  words  "water  supply."  Personnel  may  be 
of  the  finest,  and  apparatus  of  the  most  complete,  but 
both  are  helpless  if  the  wherewithal  to  quench  the  fires 
is  lacking.  Many  disastrous  conflagrations  have  owed 
their  magnitude  to  this  circumstance,  and  it  is  a  curious 
commentary  upon  municipal  intelligence  that  many  large 
cities  the  world  over,  surrounded  as  they  are  with  an 
abundance  of  water,  absolutely  lack  means  for  concen- 
trating it  at  the  scene  of  a  serious  outbreak.  Small 
mains  intended  for  supply  under  normal  circumstances 
become  practically  useless  when  great  fires  are  in  question. 
Further,  fire  departments  are  often  criticized  by  the  in- 
experienced in  newspapers  and  elsewhere,  for  their  in- 
ability to  check  a  blaze  when  the  fault  really  lies  with  in- 
different "city  fathers,"  who,  in  their  omnipotence  disre- 
gard the  advice  of  those,  who  after  all  are  paid  to  know, 
and  absolutely  fail  to  benefit  by  past  bitter  experience. 
During  the  year  1903,  several  large  fires  occurred  in  New 
York,  and  several  disastrous  ones  of  great  magnitude 
throughout  the  United  States.  The  city  had  been  grow- 
ing steadily,  it  was  recognized  that  the  water  mains  were 
too  small  to  meet  an  emergency,  and  the  authorities  there- 
upon decided  to  investigate  this  most  important  subject. 
After  careful  discussion  and  consultation  with  eminent 
engineers,  it  was  resolved  to  install  the  most  up-to-date 
system  of  water  supply  known  to  science,  popularly  known 

197 


ig8  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

as  the  "high  pressure"  service.  In  its  essentials  there  is 
really  nothing  very  remarkable  about  the  idea,  and  in 
fact  its  designation  as  above  is  something  of  a  misnomer. 
As  a  matter  of  fact  the  actual  pressure  off  a  "high  pres- 
sure" main  can  be  equalled  by  the  modern  steam  fire  pump. 
But,  whereas  the  latter  is  dependent  upon  the  human  ele- 
ment in  the  shape  of  the  fireman  who  is  responsible  for  the 
stoking  of  the  engine,  for  the  quality  of  the  coal  and  the 
organization  of  the  fuel  supply,  and  finally  for  climatic  con- 
ditions which,  in  extreme  circumstances  must  affect  in  some 
degree  an  unprotected  boiler  exposed  to  the  fury  of  the 
elements,  this  alternative  system  is  practically  indepen- 
dent of  all  these  considerations.  Undoubtedly  the  ideal 
situation  for  such  an  installation  is  in  a  town  which  draws 
its  water  from  surrounding  mountains,  such  as  in  many 
Swiss  cities.  It  stands  to  reason  that  if  a  reservoir  or  lake 
lies  some  thousands  of  feet  above  the  point  to  be  supplied, 
the  laws  of  gravity  will  insure  a  steady  and  continuous 
stream  of  water  at  any  position  in  the  area  connected  with 
it  by  mains  at  a  pressure  according  to  the  altitude  of  the 
source  of  supply.  The  fire  departments  of  Switzerland 
have  shown  themselves  keenly  alive  to  these  natural  advan- 
tages, and  the  mechanical  fire  pump  is  practically  unknown 
in  their  fire  departments.  But,  however,  the  world  has 
not  been  formed  for  the  convenience  of  its  occupants,  and 
hence  it  is  that  science  has  been  compelled  to  step  in  and, 
by  artificial  means,  to  find  the  solution  of  the  problem.  A 
brief  description  of  the  "high  pressure"  system  written 
from  the  standpoint  of  the  fire-fighter  will  explain  the 
scheme  of  operations,  and  what  applies  to  one  city  applies, 
to  all  intents  and  purposes,  to  others. 

The  service  in  the  Borough  of  Manhattan — the  island 
of  Manhattan  in  the  city  of  New  York — protects  approxi- 
mately 2,600  acres;  that  in  the  Borough  of  Brooklyn, 
about  1,400  acres,  and  that  at  Coney  Island  about  146 
acres.  There  are  two  pumping  stations  in  Manhattan, 
with  2,066  hydrants,  and  some  300,000  feet  of  mains,  chief- 
ly located  in  the  business  section  of  the  city.  Brooklyn 


THE   HIGH   PRESSURE   SYSTEM  199 

has  1,112  hydrants,  including  24  for  fire-boat  connections, 
while  Coney  Island  possesses  345,  including  three  Monitor 
nozzles.  In  deciding  upon  the  location  of  pumping  stations, 
prudence  naturally  directed  that  they  should  be  placed  so  as 
to  be  practically  outside  the  reach  of  any  possible  conflag- 
ration, and  yet  in  a  position  to  avail  themselves  of  an 
unlimited  supply  of  water  drawn  from  either  fresh  or 
salt  water  sources.  Thus  the  Manhattan  stations  were 
located  at  the  northwestern  and  southern  ends  of  the  pro- 
tected area,  the  main  features  of  their  construction — one- 
story  and  basement,  fire-proof  buildings — being  almost 
identical  in  both  cases.  These  structures  are  of  sufficient 
size  to  carry  eight  pumping  units  each,  though  the  present 
equipment  consists  of  but  six.  The  contract  calls  for 
a  delivery  from  each  pump  of  3,000  gallons  of  sea  water 
per  minute  against  a  discharge  pressure  of  300  pounds  per 
square  inch,  and  a  suction  lift  not  exceeding  twenty  feet. 
At  the  acceptance  tests,  the  fire  pumps  in  each  station 
totalled  a  delivery  of  about  18,000  gallons  per  minute  at 
the  aforesaid  pressure,  some  of  the  individual  pumps  dis- 
charging as  much  as  3,800  gallons.  This  total  can,  of 
course,  be  increased  proportionately  without  change  in 
the  buildings  or  mains,  by  the  addition  of  the  two  pump- 
ing units  for  which  space  has  been  provided.  Fresh  water 
for  each  station  is  supplied  through  two  twenty-four  inch 
mains  connected  with  a  third  of  thirty-six  inches  diameter. 
The  salt  water  supply  is  drawn  from  the  North  and  East 
rivers  through  two  thirty  inch  pipes.  These  lead  into 
suction  chambers  directly  in  front  of  each  station,  and 
are  so  constructed  that  they  are  at  all  times  below  mean 
low  water.  This  ensures  a  steady  flow  and  prevents  the 
possibility  of  interruption  caused  by  air  being  admitted  to 
the  suction  lines.  Protection  is  afforded  to  the  river  ends 
of  these  mains  by  heavy  bulkhead  screens,  and  to  the  suc- 
tion chambers  by  weighty  bronze  shields  which  are  readily 
accessible  for  cleaning.  The  pumping  units  consist  of 
centrifugal  pumps  driven  by  electric  motors,  both  supported 
on  a  common  bed.  Special  care  as  to  strength  and  ability 


200  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

to  resist  corrosion  was  expended  upon  the  pumps  whid 
run  at  a  speed  of  740  revolutions  a  minute.  They  ar< 
of  the  five-stage  type,  each  stage  being  designed  to  giv< 
a  pressure  of  sixty  pounds  to  the  square  inch,  or  the  com 
bined  pressure  of  the  five  stages,  three  hundred  pound< 
to  the  square  inch,  which  is  the  maximum  working  pressure 
of  each  unit.  It  may  sound  a  scientific  anomaly,  but  th( 
fact  remains  that  increase  of  pressure  does  not  corresponc 
to  increase  in  volume.  To  frame  a  crude  analogy.  Ar 
"ocean  greyhound"  can  steam  eighteen  knots  at  an  eco- 
nomical coal  consumption.  Increase  her  speed  two  knots 
and  the  consumption  of  fuel  at  once  increases  out  of  all  pro 
portion  to  the  additional  speed.  Subsequently,  each  addi- 
tional knot,  or  even  half -knot,  will  demand  an  enormoui 
increase  in  coal  consumption,  till  eventually  a  certair 
maximum  of  speed  will  have  been  reached  beyond  whicl 
it  is  impossible  for  the  engines  to  develop  sufficient  driving 
energy,  no  matter  how  much  coal  be  expended.  In  othei 
words,  thereafter,  surplus  energy  becomes  waste. 

Now,  somewhat  similarly,  each  installation  of  pumps  car 
deliver  about  18,000  gallons  per  minute,  at  a  pressure  o1 
three  hundred  pounds,  but  a  much  greater  volume  of  watei 
can  be  secured  by  running  them  at  a  lower  pressure.  Thus 
the  average  pressure  required  for  fire  duty  is  from  12  c 
to  200  pounds  at  the  hydrant,  and  each  station  working 
under  these  conditions  will  deliver  with  its  present  com- 
plement of  pumping  units,  30,000  gallons  of  water  pel 
minute.  Were  this  volume  of  water  concentrated  withir 
a  radius  of  five  hundred  feet,  no  imaginable  conflagratior 
could  survive  its  attack.  The  pumping  units  are  set  in 
operation  by  throwing  a  switch  on  the  main  switch  board 
which  is  directly  connected  with  the  motors.  By  this 
means  the  machines  are  brought  into  instant  use,  and  in  less 
than  one  minute  the  maximum  pressure  can  be  developed, 
Current  for  these  motors  is  furnished  locally  at  a  pressure 
of  6,600  volts,  and  each  station  has  four  separate  electrical 
feeders,  two  from  the  waterside  station  and  two  from 
the  nearest  sub-station.  Of  these  four  feeders,  two  will 


THE    HIGH    PRESSURE   SYSTEM  201 

operate  the  six  pumps,  but  provision  is  made  for  connection 
with  the  Brooklyn  stations  of  the  electric  company  in  that 
borough,  this  in  cases  of  emergency.  Two  twenty- four-inch 
mains  lead  out  of  each  station  and  traverse  practically  the 
entire  protected  area;  these  are  intersected  by  lateral 
branch  pipes  of  twelve  and  sixteen  inch  diameter,  which, 
in  turn,  are  cross-connected  by  twenty-inch  mains,  at  fre- 
quent intervals,  the  water  thus  traveling  only  a  short  dis- 
tance through  a  main  smaller  than  twenty  inches  before 
reaching  the  hydrants.  These  latter  are  connected  to  the 
mains  by  eight-inch  branch  pipes,  gates  being  provided  at  in- 
tervals of  about  250  feet  to  enable  the  carrying  out  of  neces- 
sary repairs  without  affecting  any  hydrants  except  those 
directly  adjacent  to  the  gate  in  question.  The  pipe  system 
is  so  planned,  that  without  excessive  drop  in  pressure  due 
to  friction  loss  in  the  mains,  it  is  possible  to  concentrate 
20,000  gallons  of  water  a  minute  upon  the  average  block 
of  buildings,  or  the  full  capacity  of  both  stations  upon 
an  area  of  approximately  one-quarter  of  a  square  mile. 
Since  the  work  of  the  fire  department  commences  at  the 
hydrant,  no  part  of  a  "high  pressure"  system  is  more 
important  in  determining  its  efficiency  than  the  type 
of  hydrant  employed,  which  must  be  ever  ready  for  in- 
stant service. 

Hence,  the  following  points  may  be  tabulated  as  gov- 
erning the  selection  of  this  most  essential  feature.  First- 
ly,— suitability  of  design;  this  includes  workmanship  and 
material  in  order  to  obtain  the  maximum  of  reliable  ser- 
vice. Secondly, — facility  of  operation.  Thirdly, — freedom 
from  frictional  resistance,  to  ensure  maximum  delivery; 
and  fourthly,  and  of  supreme  importance, — perfect  drainage 
to  obviate  all  possibility  of  freezing.  Without  going  into 
a  lengthy  dissertation  upon  the  specifications  prepared  and 
the  tests  carried  out,  it  is  sufficient  to  say  that  the  hydrants 
eventually  installed  are  furnished  with  four  three-inch  out- 
lets, which  provide  a  capacity  of  four  two-inch  streams 
with  seventy-five  pounds  nozzle  pressure,  and  roughly 
four  thousand  gallons  of  water  per  minute.  It  was  deemed 


202  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

advisable  that  the  main  valve  in  these  hydrants,  which  ii 
six  inches  in  diameter,  should  open  downwards  against  th< 
pressure  to  be  encountered.  In  order,  therefore,  that  th< 
operation  of  opening  this  valve  against  the  heavy  pres 
sures  liable  to  be  met  with  in  the  service  mains  shoulc 
be  an  easy  and  rapid  one,  it  was  so  designed  that  the  firs 
three  turns  of  the  hydrant  wrench  should  open  a  pilo 
valve,  thereby  admitting  water  to  the  barrel  of  the  hydrant 
thus  equalizing  the  pressures  on  both  sides  of  the  mail 
valve,  after  which  it  can  be  opened  without  difficulty  o 
resistance.  A  few  seconds  is  sufficient  to  accomplish  thi 
adjustment  of  pressures  after  the  application  of  th 
wrench. 

The  operation  above  described  sets  in  action  a  dri] 
valve,  which  closes  as  the  main  valve  is  opened  and  open 
as  the  latter  closes.  There  is  a  connection  between  th 
drip  valve  and  the  sewer,  thus  ensuring  the  drainage  o 
the  hydrant  barrel  after  use.  Valves  controlling  the  hos 
outlets  are  provided  with  a  device  which  balances  the  pres 
sures,  permitting  the  former  to  be  opened  easily  with  ; 
five-inch  wrench  under  a  pressure  of  250  pounds.  Need 
less  to  say,  before  this  system  was  finally  handed  over  fo 
practical  service  in  the  New  York  fire  department,  exten 
sive  tests  were  made,  two  of  which  are  particularly  worth; 
of  notice.  The  first  took  place  along  the  North  river  fronl 
Twenty-one  three-inch  lines  were  stretched  from  seven  hy 
drants,  and  twelve  two-inch  and  nine  one-and-a-half -ind 
nozzles  were  used.  Within  two  minutes  after  the  order  t< 
start  water  had  been  given,  a  nozzle,  pressure  of  eight 
pounds  was  registered,  and  so  great  was  the  volume  o 
water  delivered  that  the  streets  speedily  became  a  lake  an< 
overflowed  towards  the  docks.  The  second  test  was  evei 
more  exhaustive.  Twelve  three-inch  lines  with  one-and-; 
half-inch  nozzles,  six  Siamese  lines  with -two-inch  nozzles 
a  water  tower  with  a  two-inch  nozzle,  and  a  deck  pipe  wit' 
a  one-and-three-quarter-inch  nozzle,  were  all  brought  in 
stantaneously  into  action.  One  minute  after  giving  th 
order  to  start,  a  nozzle  pressure  of  150  pounds  was  ob 


THE    PIIGH    PRESSURE    SYSTEM  203 

tained,  and  in  two  minutes  195  pounds  was  registered  on 
the  one-and-a-half-inch  nozzles,  and  170  pounds  on  the 
two-inch.  With  the  nozzles  elevated  to  an  arc  of  eighty 
degrees  this  pressure  carried  a  solid  stream  of  water  one 
hundred  feet  above  the  roof  of  a  fourteen-story  building. 
The  gauge  on  the  water  tower  at  this  time  registered  270 
pounds.  To  the  layman,  even  these  simple  figures  may 
seem  perplexing,  so  it  may  be  well  to  translate  hard  facts 
into  picturesque  simile.  A  stream  of  water  propelled  by 
a  pressure  of  two  hundred  pounds  to  the  square  inch  strik- 
ing an  ordinary  office  partition  at  right  angles  at  a  distance 
of  about  one  hundred  feet,  would  smash  it  up  as  though  it 
were  so  much  matchwood  and  play  with  its  contents  like 
a  whirlwind.  Similarly,  the  same  stream,  elevated  to 
eighty  degrees,  could  easily  clean  the  cornice  of  the  tallest 
apartment  house  in  Manhattan,  or  could  wash  the  dome 
of  St.  Paul's  Cathedral  in  London. 

In  1908,  the  system  was  formally  turned  over  to  the 
Department,  but  at  the  outset  the  greatest  caution  was 
observed  over  its  operation.  Thus,  companies  responding 
to  an  alarm  in  the  high  pressure  district,  as  a  precaution- 
ary measure,  always  coupled  up  to  the  low  pressure  hy- 
drants with  engines,  thus  making  security  doubly  sure. 
As  the  absolute  reliability  of  the  new  installation  became 
increasingly  apparent,  these  precautions  were  gradually 
withdrawn,  till  today  no  engines  respond  to  any  fires  in  the 
high  pressure  district,  unless  specially  requisitioned. 

Many  outbreaks  now-a-days  are  fought  and  conquered 
with  a  second  alarm  assignment,  which,  before  the  advent 
of  the  high  pressure  system,  would  have  required  a  fourth 
alarm,  a  fact  which,  trivial  perhaps  to  the  lay  mind,  will  be 
appreciated  by  Chiefs  of  Fire  Departments  in  its  full  sig- 
nificance. No  doubt,  the  latter  have  often  realized  the 
danger  of  having  to  draw  almost  every  piece  of  apparatus 
at  their  command  to  a  big  fire,  leaving  nothing  in  reserve 
with  which  to  tackle  another  outbreak  should  one  then 
occur.  Simultaneous  calls  of  this  nature  tax  the  wit  of 
man  to  meet,  and  the  days  of  miracles  are  past.  The  first 


204  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

fire  can  be  fought  and  quelled,  but  the  second,  coming  wher 
the  force  is  already  engaged,  forms  a  very  serious  menace 
In  the  high  pressure  area  of  New  York,  four  fires  oi 
some  magnitude  have  been  attacked  and  suppressed  at  th( 
same  time,  not  to  mention  several  smaller  blazes.  That  fac 
speaks  for  itself.  Prior  to  the  installation,  also,  there  wa: 
always  the  fear  of  a  sweeping  conflagration  after  the  styl< 
of  Baltimore;  but  that  has  passed  away  forever.  Nev 
York  today  is  the  best  fire  protected  city  on  the  Americai 
continent,  but  even  the  knowledge  that  this  is  so  has  no 
prevented  further  efforts  to  meet  the  demands  of  the  situa 
tion.  Another  pumping  station  is  even  now  in  course  o: 
construction  and  within  two  years  it  is  confidently  expectec 
that  the  area  protected  by  duplicated  high  pressure  main: 
will  amount  to  over  ten  thousand  acres,  this  in  the  mos 
congested  and  most  valuable  portion  of  the  city.  But  t< 
return  to  the  detailed  description  of  the  apparatus  employee 
in  rendering  the  installation  additionally  effective. 

The  use  of  centralized  energy  for  delivering  water  a 
a  high  pressure  throughout  an  entire  system  naturally  en 
tails  upon  all  the  mains  and  hydrants  involved  the  maximun 
pressure  required  at  any  one  point.  It  is,  therefore,  quit 
likely  to  happen,  that  whereas  a  pressure  of  125  pounds  wil 
be  ample  for  one  fire,  another  outbreak  may  occur  in  th< 
protected  area  necessitating  a  pressure  of  250  pounds.  Thi 
would  mean  that  the  pressure  would  have  to  be  raise< 
suddenly  to  meet  the  fresh  call,  and,  coming  unexpectedl; 
and  unheralded,  it  might  seriously  endanger  the  men  operat 
ing  at  the  smaller  outbreak.  Or,  further  to  illustrat 
this  point,  it  is  sometimes  desirable  to  take  water  from  ; 
hydrant  for  a  hand  line  at  seventy-five  pounds,  and  fron 
another  outlet  to  supply  a  water  tower  at  225  pounds.  T 
permit  of  this  arrangement,  a  regulating  valve,  weighing 
only  twenty-five  pounds  has  been  invented,  which  is  at 
tached  to  the  hydrant  outlet.  A  pressure  gauge  is  insertei 
on  the  hose  side,  the  regulating  valve  is  opened  until  th 
gauge  needle  points  to  the  pressure  required,  and  no  matte 
to  what  extent  the  pressure  on  the  receiving  side  is  in 


THE   HIGH   PRESSURE   SYSTEM  205 

creased,  on  the  discharging  side  it  remains  at  the  figure 
selected.  If  a  shut-off  nozzle  is  used  on  the  line,  auto- 
matically the  pressure  remains  at  the  figure  indicated  on 
the  gauge.  Even  the  layman  will  appreciate  the  enormous 
importance  of  a  valve  of  this  nature,  without  which  the 
system  as  the  whole  could  not  be  properly  controlled  or 
operated  to  the  best  advantage. 

In  order  to  guard  against  the  somewhat  remote  possi- 
bility of  a  breakdown  of  all  pumping  units  in  both  stations, 
provision  is  made  for  connecting  the  fire-boats  of  the  de- 
partment to  the  high  pressure  hydrants.  By  this  means 
these  boats  can  deliver  60,000  gallons  of  water  per  minute 
at  a  pressure  of  250  pounds.  In  addition,  by  this  method, 
fire-boats  may  be  made  to  constitute  a  valuable  auxiliary 
in  the  case  of  any  great  emergency.  But,  as  science  is  never 
idle  and  one  discovery  leads  to  another,  so  it 'is  with  the 
business  of  fire  control,  and  day  by  day  fresh  ideas  are 
brought  into  being,  tested  and  utilized  for  the  common, 
weal.  Thus,  in  the  later  portions  of  the  city  protected 
by  the  high  pressure  system,  it  has  been  found  advan- 
tageous to  duplicate  the  mains  and  hydrants,  so  that  if 
one  set  of  mains  becomes  blocked,  the  other  may  be  brought 
into  service  without  delay.  The  system  is  operated  as  a 
unit,  but  in  case  of  a  break  in  the  mains,  it  can  be  divided 
by  the  closing  of  the  motor  valves  at  selected  points.  These 
valves  are  controlled  by  switches  on  the  pumping  station's 
switch  board,  a  row  of  red  and  a  row  of  green  lights  in- 
dicating the  two  lines  of  mains.  In  the  event  of  a  break, 
pumps  are  shut  down  and  the  motor  valves  are  immediately 
closed.  When  the  pumps  are  started  again,  the  pressure 
building  up  on  the  line  that  is  intact  will  be  shown  by 
the  colored  lights  mentioned.  The  serviceable  main  will 
be  kept  in  use  at  the  fire,  but  the  officer  in  charge  must 
wait  about  one  minute  in  order  to  see  whether  the  pressure 
is  from  the  red  or  the  green  line.  As  soon  as  the  pressure 
shows  on  either,  those  lines  connected  to  that  disabled  will 
be  shifted  over  to  the  hydrants  on  the  main  intact  and  the 
fight  can  be  continued  with  ample  water  supply. 


206  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

During  the  continuance  of  a  fire,  the  Chief  operating 
can  control  the  pressure  at  the  pumping  station,  increasing 
or  decreasing  the  same  or  stopping  it  altogether  by  means 
of  a  special  telephone  service  run  into  boxes  conveniently 
situated  and  specially  designed  for  the  purpose,  which  are 
plentifully  installed  throughout  the  protected  area.  This 
system  has  been  found  to  answer  well,  though  it  is  open 
to  the  possibility  that  orders  may  be  misunderstood  from 
one  cause  or  another.  Probably  some  improvement  thereon 
may  be  framed  in  time  as  the  science  of  fire-fighting  be- 
comes increasingly  popular  and  it  is  better  realised  what 
an  important  part  is  played  by  fire  control  in  the  daily 
life  of  the  people.  For  instance,  one  of  the  most  gratify- 
ing effects  of  the  introduction  of  the  high  pressure  system 
in  New  York  was  the  immediate  drop  in  insurance  rates. 
In  December,  1908,  about  six  months  after  this  system 
had  been  put  into  regular  use,  the  New  York  Fire  In- 
surance Exchange  made  a  general  reduction  of  rates 
throughout  the  high  pressure  zone  in  Manhattan,  a  reduc- 
tion amounting  to  the  respectable  sum  of  $500,000  annually. 
In  Brooklyn,  likewise,  a  reduction  of  $250,000  followed, 
so  that  the  improvement  has  already  saved  the  taxpayer 
in  the  community  about  $750,000  a  year.  Hence,  this 
method  is  not  one  of  fire  control  alone,  but  becomes  posi- 
tively a  good  investment. 

Of  course,  it  may  be  urged  that  in  the  United  States, 
the  profession  of  fire-fighting  has  developed  into  such  a 
highly  specialized  service  and  has  demanded  so  many  dras- 
tic changes  in  equipment  and  maintenance,  because  the 
risks  incurred  are  proportionately  greater  than  are  met 
with  elsewhere.  There  is  a  measure  of  truth  in  this,  but 
it  is  on  a  par  with  the  individual,  who,  living  in  a  small 
island,  considers  motor  cars  an  unnecessary  means  of 
transportation  and  railways  a  wasteful  expense,  because 
he  has  always  found  a  horse  and  trap  convenient  and  suffi- 
cient for  his  needs.  That  is,  of  course,  a  somewhat  ex- 
aggerated simile,  but  it  is  an  incontrovertible  fact  that  there 
are  many  otherwise  normal  citizens  in  all  the  countries  of 


SWITCH-BOABD  AT    HIGH   PRESSURE  PUMPING   STATION. 


THE    HIGH    PRESSURE    SYSTEM  207 

the  world  who  view  innovation  with  suspicion  and  shield 
themselves  behind  the  comfortable  assurance  that  "our 
fathers  did  very  well  without  all  these  new  fangled  notions 
and  what  was  good  enough  for  them  is  good  enough  for 
us."  This  especially  as  regards  municipal  outlay  on  fire 
protection,  though  in  this  respect  the  writer  must  lay  it  on 
record  that  New  York  has  always  risen  to  the  occasion  in 
the  most  openhanded  manner.  For  some  obscure  reason 
the  average  man  objects  to  putting  his  hand  in  his  pocket 
for  anything  in  connection  with  the  fire  risks  of  the  com- 
munity just  as  much  as  though  he  were  being  held  up 
by  a  highway  robber,  and  willy  nilly  had  to  surrender 
his  purse. 

There  is  no  advantage  in  labouring  an  obvious  point  and 
the  writer  has  in  his  mind  not  Europe  alone,  but  some 
American  cities  where  the  Fire  Department  is  apparently 
regarded  as  a  costly  and  unnecessary  adjunct  to  the  other 
municipal  offices.  Yet  in  all  fairness  to  those  whose  re- 
sponsibility it  is  to  protect  the  lives  and  property  of  those 
given  into  their  charge,  there  should  be  no  hesitation  in 
providing  them  with  the  most  modern  and  up-to-date  ap- 
paratus for  the  discharge  of  their  duties.  The  mathemati- 
cal aspect  of  the  whole  question  as  regards  the  "high 
pressure"  system  as  a  whole,  is  not  a  difficult  one  for 
Fire  Committees  to  understand.  Since  one  "high  pres- 
sure" hydrant  is  the  equivalent  of  six  engines  of  the  first 
size,  how  many  hydrants  would  be  equal  to  the  entire 
pumping  outfit  of  the  brigade,  using  an  English  term,  and 
would  not  the  initial  expense  of  installation  be  more  than 
met  by  decrease  in  personnel,  decrease  in  insurance  rates 
and  increase  in  safety  of  citizens  committed  to  their  charge  ? 
The  answer  to  this  conundrum  should  not  unduly  tax  the 
mental  equipment  even  of  one  of  those  corporations  ad- 
dicted to  the  traditions  of  the  Medes  and  Persians. 


CHAPTER  XV 

FIRE  CONTROL  IN  SCHOOLS,  FACTORIES  AND  HOSPITALS 

SINCE  it  is  no  exaggeration  to  define  panic  as  one  of  the 
most  effective  allies  of  fire,  it  is  obvious  that  in  dealing 
with  buildings  occupied  by  large  numbers  of  either  young 
or  infirm  people,  or  with  places  where  passing  crowds  are 
apt  to  congregate,  such  as  department  stores,  peculiar  pre- 
cautions are  necessary.  The  genesis  of  many  a  conflagra- 
tion, attended  afterwards  with  terrible  loss  of  life,  is  often 
trivial.  Taken  in  time  and  dealt  with  coolly  it  would  never 
have  developed  into  a  serious  outbreak,  and  equally  the 
magnitude  of  the  blaze,  as  regards  actual  fire  damage,  can 
never  be  accurately  gauged  by  the  death  roll.  Experience 
has  shown  that  in  such  disasters  as  many  die  from  suffo- 
cation consequent  upon  crushing,  or  from  injuries  received 
in  seeking  safety  through  some  desperate  and  ill-judged 
action,  such  as  jumping  into  the  streets,  as  perish  in  the 
flames.  Of  course,  this  is  natural.  A  curl  of  smoke,  a  few 
sparks  and  a  cry  of  "fire,"  and  unless  beforehand  pre- 
pared for  this  kind  of  emergency,  the  primal  impulse  of 
any  one  is  to  reach  safety,  or  what  appears  safety,  as 
quickly  as  possible.  No  thought  is  given  as  to  the  best 
mode  of  exit,  misguided  instinct  suggests  the  way  by  which 
one  has  entered,  and  instantly  corridors,  stairways  and  pas- 
sages become  jammed  with  a  frightened,  hustling  crowd, 
beyond  control,  and  following  each  other  like  sheep  to  the 
shambles.  It  is  this  incontrovertible  fact  which  has  caused 
the  architect  to  labour  towards  the  design  of  "panic-proof" 
structures,  and  has  led  those  interested  in  fire  control  to 
devise  means  which  shall  render  such  occurrences  rare  to 

208 


FIRE   CONTROL   IN   SCHOOLS,   ETC.        209 

the  point  of  non-existence.  And  it  must  be  remembered 
that  unfortunately,  responsible  authorities  are  called  upon  to 
frame  regulations,  oftentimes  not  for  application  in  modern 
fire-resisting  buildings,  but  for  structures  composed  largely 
of  lath  and  stucco,  and  which,  given  the  opportunity,  would 
burn  like  tinder  boxes.  Hence,  it  seems  scarcely  necessary 
to  emphasize  the  point  that,  with  the  latter,  the  danger  is 
more  acute,  and  above  all  else  there  is  need  for  speed  and 
sang-froid.  Now  the  only  method  by  which  this  state  of 
affairs  can  be  assured  is  by  a  process  of  accustoming  the 
human  unit  to  the  conditions  likely  to  arise  in  a  fire  emer- 
gency, and  this  can  best  be  done  by  means  of  drill. 

Whether  it  be  employees  in  a  factory,  children  in  a  school 
or  the  staff  of  a  hospital  or  a  department  store,  exit  drills 
should  always  be  enforced,  and  where  circumstances  allow, 
provision  should  be  made  for  some  sort  of  "house"  fire- 
fighting  force.  It  must  be  understood,  of  course,  that  the 
latter  in  no  way  takes  the  place  of  the  regular  fire  depart- 
ment, which  should  be  communicated  with  at  once  in  all 
cases,  but  rather  is  intended  to  act  as  an  auxiliary  pending 
their  arrival.  It  will  be  convenient  to  deal  seriatim  with  the 
four  types  mentioned.  In  factory  buildings  particular  dan- 
ger attaches  to  the  stairways  connecting  stories.  They  can 
only  accommodate  a  limited  number  of  people  and  form 
dangerous  exits  for  crowds.  Congestion  at  their  corners 
means  death,  and  since  employees  may  be  expected  to  vary 
in  nationality,  misunderstanding  of  orders  becomes  more 
probable,  and  the  problem  of  preventing  a  panic  assumes 
a  thorny  aspect.  In  the  first  place,  exit  drills  should  be 
held  as  often  as  possible  and  should  include  every  one  in 
the  building.  When  two  or  three  firms  occupy  the  same 
premises  there  should  be  cooperation,  and  the  alarms  an- 
nouncing these  drills  should  be  given  from  different  floors 
in  order  that  practice  may  be  afforded  in  changing  the  order 
of  precedence  for  possession  of  stairways  or  fire  escapes. 
The  line  of  march  may  be  so  arranged  as  to  take  advantage 
of  the  additional  time  required  in  the  descent  of  those  from 
the  upper  floors,  by  dismissing  such  of  the  lower  floors  as 


2io  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

would  not  delay  their  egress.  An  exception  to  this  rule 
should  be  made  where  buildings  are  divided  by  fire  walls 
with  protected  openings,  which  permit  of  the  transfer  of 
occupants  in  the  fire  section  to  the  corresponding  fire-free 
section  on  the  same  floor  in  the  same  building,  or  where 
provision  is  made  for  a  safe  retreat  by  means  of  gangways 
leading  to  adjoining  buildings.  Incidentally,  an  excellent 
scheme,  where  feasible,  is  to  dismiss  the  employees  nightly 
by  a  fire  signal.  In  assigning  stations,  the  first  considera- 
tion is  the  selection  of  aisle  guards,  whose  business  it  is 
to  effect  line  formation,  prevent  pushing  and  overcrowding 
and  to  see  that  the  time  honoured  precept  "women  and  chil- 
dren first"  is  observed.  All  subsequent  movements  should 
be  regulated  by  a  gong  or  whistle.  Thus,  the  first  alarm 
indicating  the  floor  of  the  outbreak  should  consist  of  a 
number  of  taps  indicating  the  floor.  As  soon  as  the  first 
stroke  sounds,  work  should  cease,  and,  if  possible,  all 
power  be  shut  off  the  machines.  Then  all  stock,  chairs  or 
benches  blocking  the  aisles  should  be  removed  by  the  em- 
ployees nearest,  and  placed  either  above  or  below  the  work 
tables.  The  next  movement  is  to  march  to  the  exit  passage 
in  single  or  double  file.  If  in  the  latter,  couples  should  link 
arms  for  mutual  support,  the  women  using  the  free  hand 
to  raise  their  skirts  to  prevent  themselves  and  those  behind 
them  from  tripping,  and  each  file  should  move  forward, 
observing  a  uniform  distance  between  the  couples.  The 
signal  to  start  should  be  given  by  the  "room  captain,"  and 
under  no  circumstances  should  any  employee  be  permitted 
to  attempt  to  secure  clothing  from  locker  or  cloak  room. 
Upon  reaching  the  street  the  line  should  be  led  away  to 
a  safe  distance  from  the  building,  and  for  this  duty  one 
of  the  supervisors  should  be  selected  and  drilled  as  a  guide. 
Elevator  attendants  should  take  their  cars,  upon  the  first 
sound  of  a  building  alarm,  to  the  floor  indicated,  and  hold 
themselves  subject  to  the  orders  of  the  "floor  chief."  In 
high  buildings  of  the  fire-resistive  type,  the  operator  should 
run  his  elevator  into  the  fire  zone,  receive  passengers,  and 
if  conditions  favour,  discharge  them  a  few  floors  below. 


FIRE    CONTROL   IN    SCHOOLS,    ETC.         211 

The  usual  difficulty,  however,  is  that  floors  and  stairways 
are  so  crowded  that  he  has  no  option  but  to  run  to  the 
ground  floor.  The  assignment  of  exits  necessarily  depends 
upon  their  number,  capacity  and  location.  But  it  is  im- 
portant that  all  means  of  egress  should  be  based  on  ap- 
proximate estimates  of  their  relative  discharging  capacities, 
which  can  be  readily  arrived  at  by  actual  tests. 

When  possible,  provision  should  be  made  for  the  un- 
hampered entrance  of  firemen,  and  in  the  planning  of  such 
fire  drills  combinations  of  exits  should  be  studied.  Em- 
ployers having  the  welfare  of  their  work  people  at  heart, 
can  always  obtain  advice,  if  in  any  doubt  on  this  subject, 
from  officials  of  the  fire  department.  All  that  is  intended 
here  is  to  suggest  certain  simples  rules  of  conduct  which 
will  tend  to  prevent  confusion  and  make  for  safety.  The 
location  of  stairways,  fire  escapes  and  other  exits  should  be 
indicated  by  illuminated  signs,  and  for  the  information  of 
employees,  leaflets  should  be  printed  in  several  languages, 
giving  the  details  of  the  fire  drill.  It  goes  without  saying 
that  all  modern  buildings  of  this  type  should  be  equipped 
with  an  electrically  operated  alarm  system,  the  mechanical 
gong  of  which  could  be  better  heard  above  the  noise  of 
any  machinery  than  one  struck  by  the  "room  captain,"  and 
would  possess  the  additional  advantage  of  automatically 
operating  on  all  floors  from  any  position.  The  box  sta- 
tions governing  these  alarms  should  be  accessible  only  to 
responsible  persons.  It  may  be  urged  that  such  precau- 
tions presuppose  certain  members  of  the  staff  being  pos- 
sessed of  intelligence  and  a  considerable  amount  of  or- 
ganizing ability,  but  as  a  rule  either  foremen  or  forewomen 
in  sectional  charge  of  fifty  employees  will  be  found  to  fill 
admirably  such  executive  positions  as  "room  captains." 
They  in  their  turn  are  naturally  subordinate  to  the  man- 
ager, who  should  accept  supreme  control  and  the  respon- 
sibility attaching  thereto.  Aisle  guards  may  be  compared 
to  lieutenants,  should  be  strong  and  alert,  and  owing  to 
the  fact  that  they  may  be  required  to  use  some  physical 
force,  should,  when  possible,  be  men.  They  should  be 


212  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

especially  watchful  of  persons  stumbling,  fainting  or  becom- 
ing hysterical.  Where  stair  exits  have  sharp  bends,  they 
should  be  stationed  there  to  prevent  congestion,  and  above 
all,  they  should  be  made  to  realize  their  obligations  and 
to  feel  that  their  duties  are  no  mere  sinecure.  Finally, 
there  should  be  at  least  one  male  and  one  female  searcher 
on  each  floor  to  visit  the  toilet  rooms  and  other  such  places, 
where  perhaps  the  fire  signal  cannot  be  heard.  In  buildings 
of  an  antiquated  type  these  precautions  make  no  pretense 
of  securing  absolute  safety  to  the  individual,  but  if  the 
drills  be  arranged  with  the  advice  of  a  skilled  fire  official 
it  is  probable  that  panic  will  not  unreasonably  seize  all  in- 
mates, and  that  the  fire  department  will  at  least  be  given 
an  opportunity  of  effecting  such  rescues  as  human  ingen- 
uity and  providence  will  allow.  At  any  rate  they  will  not 
be  met  with  the  appalling  conditions  which  alas,  have  been 
only  too  common  hitherto,  when  persons  have  found 
death  needlessly,  while  safety  awaited  them  with  the  advent 
of  the  professional  fire-fighters.  The  fire  risk  is  real  enough 
without  the  additional  factors  of  fright  and  bad  manage- 
ment, and  it  is  to  guard  against  these  that  the  above  has 
been  suggested. 

One  of  the  most  terrible  conflagrations  of  this  nature  in 
recent  years  was  that  which  occurred  on  Saturday,  March 
25th,  1911,  in  the  Asch  Building,  a  ten-story  structure 
situated  at  the  corner  of  Washington  Place  and  Greene 
Street,  New  York  City.  The  following  account,  vivid  in 
its  simple  realism,  is  taken  from  the  report  of  the  New 
York  Board  of  Fire  Underwriters. 

"Occupancy,  8th,  9th  and  loth  floors.  Work  rooms, 
show-room  and  factory,  stock-room,  pressing  and  shipping 
department  of  the  Triangle  Waist  Company.  ...  On  the 
9th  floor  there  were  two  wooden  partitions,  one  forming 
the  cloak  room,  the  other  being  at  the  north  side  enclosing 
the  entrance  to  the  freight  elevators  and  stairshaft.  .  .  . 
On  the  loth  floor  there  were  partitions  of  wood  and  glass 
forming  offices  and  show-rooms.  .  .  .  On  the  rear  of 
the  building  in  the  court  was  an  iron  fire-escape,  the  steps 


FIRE    CONTROL   IN    SCHOOLS,   ETC.         213 

being  17^  inches  wide.  The  fire-escape  did  not  extend 
to  the  bottom  of  the  court  and  the  latter  had  no  exit  to  the 
street.  On  the  eighth  floor  there  were  five  unbroken  rows 
of  four-foot  tables,  each  containing  a  double  row  of  sewing 
machines  and  shirt  waists  in  process  of  manufacture.  These 
tables  extended  from  the  Washington  Place  front  'south 
wall'  to  within  eighteen  feet  of  the  north  side  of  the 
building.  This  latter  space  was  partially  filled  with  stock, 
principally  on  tables.  An  aisle  space  was  also  left  running 
east  and  west  along  the  north  side.  The  space  along  the 
east  wall  contained  the  cutting  tables.  Approximately  275 
operators  were  on  this  floor.  On  the  ninth  floor  there 
were  eight  unbroken  rows  of  four-foot  tables  with  300 
operators.  There  were  no  aisles  running  east  and  west  at 
the  south  side  of  these  floors,  the  sewing  machine  tables 
extending  close  up  to  the  wall.  The  space  between  the 
tables  was  approximately  four  feet  wide  and  contained 
two  rows  of  chairs  back  to  back.  It  also  contained  baskets 
and  other  receptacles  for  the  goods  in  process  of  manu- 
facture. The  only  convenient  way  for  the  operators  next 
to  the  south  wall  to  reach  the  stairs  and  elevators  at  the 
southwest  corner,  was  to  walk  the  entire  length  of  the 
crowded  space  between  the  tables  to  the  north  side,  and 
then  use  the  aisles  which  extended  along  the  north  and 
west  sides  of  the  building.  .  .  . 

"The  fire  started  at  4:42  p.  M.  on  the  eighth  floor  in 
the  vicinity  of  the  northeast  corner  of  the  build- 
ing, almost  simultaneously  with  the  signal  to  stop 
work  for  the  day.  It  is  generally  believed  to 
have  originated  from  a  match  or  cigarette  igniting  scrap 
material  on  the  floor  in  the  vicinity  of  the  cutting  tables. 
It  spread  rapidly,  however,  due  to  the  large  quantity  of  in- 
flammable material  consisting  chiefly  of  thin  cotton,  lace 
and  other  trimmings.  In  a  very  short  time  the  fire  had 
spread  over  the  entire  floor  and  communicated,  principally 
out  and  in  the  windows,  to  the  floors  above.  In  addition 
to  the  windows,  the  fire  may  have  communicated  from  floor 
to  floor  by  way  of  the  stairs  and  elevator  shafts,  as  the 


214  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

doors  were  undoubtedly  open,  in  part  at  least.  The  plant 
was  working  overtime  when  the  fire  occurred.  According 
to  the  information  obtainable  the  operators  crowded  in 
among  the  machines,  chairs  and  goods  on  the  eighth  and 
ninth  floors,  were  badly  panic  stricken  immediately  after 
the  start  of  the  fire,  and  in  consequence  made  slow  progress 
towards  the  exits.  Considerable  delay  is  said  to  have  been 
experienced  in  opening  the  doors  leading  to  the  stairs  at 
the  southwest  corner  of  the  building  as  they  opened  inwards 
and  the  women  became  jammed  against  them.  Practically 
the  entire  loss  of  life  was  confined  to  those  employed  on 
the  ninth  floor.  More  than  half  of  the  number  said  to 
have  been  on  this  floor  escaped.  It  seems  apparent,  how- 
ever, that  by  the  time  this  number  had  got  out,  the  elevators 
had  stopped  running  and  the  flames  around  the  two  inside 
stairways  and  outside  fire-escape,  both  on  this  floor  and 
those  adjoining,  would  not  permit  any  further  egress  in 
these  directions.  The  result  was  that  all  who  remained  on 
the  floor  until  this  condition  prevailed  were  overcome  by 
the  smoke  and  fire  or  jumped  from  the  windows.  It  is  said 
that  a  few — probably  twenty — from  the  upper  floors  de- 
scended by  way  of  the  outside  fire-escape.  These  reentered 
one  of  the  lower  stories  and  passed  down  the  stairways. 
Approximately  twenty-five  bodies  were  found  closely 
jammed  in  the  cloak  room,  next  to  the  stair  shaft  at  the 
west  end  of  the  building.  About  fifty  were  found  near 
the  northeast  corner  behind  the  partition  and  clothes  locker 
located  thirty  inches  from  the  north  end  of  the  two  tables 
nearest  the  east  wall.  Twenty  bodies  were  found  near  the 
machines  where  they  worked,  apparently  having  been  over- 
come before  they  could  extricate  themselves.  About  ten 
are  said  to  have  been  taken  from  the  bottom  of  the  court  on 
the  north.  The  balance  of  those  killed — approximately 
forty — jumped  from  the  windows  to  the  street." 

There  seems  to  be  no  doubt  that  had  fire-drill  been  or- 
ganized amongst  these  women  so  great  a  panic  would  have 
been  avoided.  But  in  the  opinion  of  the  writer  automatic 
sprinklers  would  in  all  probability  have  averted  the  disaster 


WATER   TOWER  AT   WORK. 


FIRE   CONTROL   IN   SCHOOLS,   ETC.         215 

as  "their  operation  would  have  turned  in  an  immediate 
alarm  and  the  delay  in  sending  in  an  alarm  contributed 
greatly  to  the  appalling  loss  of  life.  It  must,  how- 
ever, be  remarked  that  the  fire-escape  in  the  rear 
of  this  building  was  quite  inadequate  for  the  needs 
of  the  situation,  as  in  order  to  gain  the  street, 
it  will  be  noticed,  that  those  using  it  were  obliged  to  reenter 
one  of  the  lower  stories  and  pass  thence  down  the  main 
stairway  to  the  front  door.  In  addition,  doors  should 
never  be  constructed  to  open  inwards. 

Turning  now  to  the  problem  of  schools;  in  its  essentials 
this  is  in  many  ways  akin  to  that  of  factories,  with  the 
outstanding  difference,  that  in  dealing  with  children  even 
greater  care  must  be  exercised  by  the  supervisors  or  "room 
captains."  These  should  be  chosen  from  amongst  the  teach- 
ers, and  their  duties  with  regard  to  their  charges  should 
be  along  precisely  similar  lines  to  those  already  laid  down, 
though  it  should  be  borne  in  mind  that  personal  influence 
here  plays  a  greater  part.  Where  pianos  or  other  instru- 
ments are  available  an  excellent  plan  is  the  use  of  march- 
time  music  to  assist  in  steadying  the  lines  of  scholars  after 
a  fire  alarm.  Incidentally,  school  should  always  be  dis- 
missed once  a  day  in  accordance  with  the  practices  of  fire 
drill.  In  the  matter  of  exits,  preference  should  be  given 
to  the  classes  of  smaller  children,  and  it  is  particularly 
urged  that  exits  for  infants  should  be  smoke-proof  and 
of  sufficient  width  to  accommodate  double  lines  of  two 
children  each.  Further,  as  far  as  the  construction  of  the 
building  will  allow,  the  convergence  of  two  columns  in 
narrow  halls  or  stairways  should  be  particularly  avoided. 
This  is  only  too  liable  to  cause  confusion,  which  in  the 
event  of  the  building  being  a  quick-burner,  may  result 
in  terrible  loss  of  life.  In  schools  of  advanced  grades, 
where  there  are  boys  of  a  certain  age,  it  is  a  good  system 
to  organize  a  small  fire-fighting  force  to  use  the  chemical 
extinguishers  common  to  all  public  institutions,  and  from 
the  nature  of  the  duty,  youngsters  are  likely  to  become 
enthusiastic  over,  and  expert  in,  their  management. 


216  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

Since  example  is  proverbially  better  than  precept,  the 
following  accounts  of  two  school  fires,  widely  differing  in 
ultimate  results  but  having  many  points  in  common,  may 
be  not  without  interest  to  the  general  reader. 

In  Collinwood,  a  suburb  of  Cleveland,  Ohio,  there  stood 
on  the  4th  of  March,  1908,  a  large  school  accommodating 
over  eight  hundred  children.  The  day  was  a  warm  one 
and  there  was  but  a  small  fire  in  the  furnace,  which  was 
situated  under  the  front  stairs.  Before  the  noon  recess 
the  janitor  in  charge  noticed  a  thin  stream  of  smoke  com- 
ing from  the  basement  and  at  once  gave  the  alarm.  On 
the  ground  floor  the  children  were  marched  out  quietly, 
calm  in  the  belief  that  the  signal  was  for  drill,  but  before 
the  anxious  teachers  on  the  next  two  floors  could  marshal 
their  charges  the  fire  had  gained  such  ground  that  all 
escape  by  the  front  door  was  impossible.  As  the  children 
neared  this  exit  they  were  driven  back  by  the  smoke  which 
confronted  them  and  fought  to  reascend  the  stairs,  only  to 
be  pushed  down  into  the  flames  by  the  excited  and  fright- 
ened little  mob  still  descending.  In  the  drills  used,  both 
teachers  and  children  had  been  accustomed  to  employ  only 
the  front  door  as  a  means  of  egress,  and  the  fact  that  this 
means  was  debarred  them  seems  to  have  had  a  paralyzing 
effect  upon  all  intelligence  and  action.  By  the  time  the 
second  stairway  leading  to  a  door  in  the  rear  was  thought 
of,  the  children  were  entirely  out  of  hand,  and  when  this 
door  was  found  to  be  locked  the  situation  became  un- 
controllable. Parents  brought  to  the  scene  by  the  sight 
of  the  smoke  and  the  shrieks  of  the  children  in  distress 
stood  helpless,  as  did  the  firemen.  In  this  suburb  the  only 
force  available  was  that  of  volunteers,  whose  apparatus  was 
inadequate,  having  no  ladders  long  enough  to  reach  the 
third  floor  and  who  were  unable  to  obtain  sufficient  water 
pressure  to  extinguish  the  fire  in  the  second  story.  One 
desperate  mother,  aided  by  an  unknown  man,  tried  vainly 
to  open  the  rear  door,  behind  which  muffled  sobs  and  groans 
told  of  the  extremity  of  the  little  ones  within.  But  her 
efforts  were  fruitless,  and  with  her  bare  hands  she  succeeded 


FIRE   CONTROL   IN    SCHOOLS,    ETC.         217 


in  breaking  some  panes  of  glass  in  adjacent  windows  and 
managed  by  this  means  to  drag  to  safety  a  few  semi- 
conscious tots.  None  of  the  children  righting  and  strug- 
gling for  life  behind  this  pitiless  barrier  was  more  than 
fourteen  years  of  age,  and  many  were  only  six  and  seven. 
At  the  front  door  the  weight  of  human  bodies  became  so 
great  that  it  collapsed  and  showed  to  the  agonized  spec- 
tators, many  of  them  parents,  a  heap  of  little  forms  caressed 
by  the  flames  and  half  hidden  by  the  smoke.  Amongst 
this  pile  was  one  small  girl  of  ten,  whose  father  arrived 
in  time  to  make  a  futile  attempt  to  pull  her  from  the  death 
awaiting  her.  Still  alive,  but  crushed  and  horribly  burnt, 
she  was  able  to  hold  out  her  feeble  arms  to  him,  and  he, 
heedless  of  the  peril  of  his  own  position  and  intent  only 
on  the  saving  of  his  daughter,  worked  frantically  until  his 
own  injuries  prevented  further  effort.  Another  child  was 
recognized  by  her  mother.  Their  hands  met,  when  a  piece 
of  broken  glass  fell  on  the  mother's  wrist  practically  se- 
vering it  from  the  arm.  As  the  grip  of  the  two  hands 
relaxed  the  daughter  fell  back  into  the  blazing  pyre  to  be 
seen  no  more.  In  thirty  minutes  from  the  time  of  the  first 
alarm  nothing  remained  of  the  building  but  four  blackened 
and  uncovered  walls  and  a  smouldering  heap  of  wreckage, 
some  of  which  had  once  been  human  beings. 

It  was  only  then  that  the  firemen  were  able  to  enter 
the  ruins,  and  there  was  virtually  nothing  for  them  to  do. 
Of  the  810  children  who  had  taken  in  their  books  that 
morning,  about  170  had  perished,  and  with  them  had  died 
two  teachers  in  the  vain  attempt  to  lead  their  charges  to 
safety.  The  rear  door,  also,  was  broken  down  by  the 
number  of  little  ones  who  had  been  packed  so  closely  against 
it  that  their  combined  weight  caused  the  lock  to  give,  when 
too  late.  Practically  all  the  bodies  were  unrecognizable, 
and  frenzied  relatives  were  unconvinced  of  the  losses  in 
their  homes  until  the  roll  had  been  called.  The  origin  of 
the  fire  still  remains  unknown;  it  may  have  been  due  to 
defective  flues  or  to  carelessness,  but,  be  that  as  it  may,  the 
results  of  this  catastrophe  carried  mourning  into  hundreds 


218  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

of  homes  and  once  again  emphasized  the  pressing  need  of 
every  known  structural  precaution  in  such  buildings  plus 
better  considered  planning  of  drills. 

It  is  a  relief  to  turn  from  the  recitation  of  such  horrors 
to  the  narration  of  a  brighter  and  happier  story.  In 
Raleigh,  a  small  town  in  North  Carolina,  on  Friday  morn- 
ing, February  I4th  of  the  present  year,  a  fire  broke  out 
in  an  old  wooden  school  building,  which,  from  its  con- 
struction was  a  veritable  fire-trap.  In  spite  of  the  fact 
that  the  halls  and  rooms  were  filled  with  smoke  before  the 
350  children  could  be  got  into  line,  their  order  was  unbroken 
and  their  courage  unshaken  as  they  marched  through  the 
suffocating  atmosphere  to  the  doors  and  down  the  wet 
fire  escapes.  The  principal  of  the  school  was  notified 
of  the  danger  by  one  of  her  subordinates;  quickly  closing 
the  doors  in  the  upper  hall  she  gave  the  signal  for  the  drill 
which  her  pupils  had  often  practised.  At  the  tap  of  the 
gong  every  child  fell  into  line,  those  downstairs  going  out 
of  the  front  and  main  entrances,  while  those  on  the  upper 
stories  descended  to  the  streets  by  ihe  two  fire  escapes, 
which  were  wet  and  sticky  from  the  snow  that  had  fallen 
during  the  morning.  All  was  as  orderly  as  a  stage  rehear- 
sal. Even  the  smallest  tots  followed  the  elder  ones  without 
the  slightest  confusion.  There  was  no  attempt  to  get  hats 
or  wraps  or  books.  The  whole  operation  occupied  only 
three-quarters  of  a  minute,  which  was  better  time  than  had 
ever  before  been  made  in  practice.  Parents  who  had 
rushed  to  the  scene,  dreading  the  terrible  sights  which 
might  meet  their  eyes,  saw  an  orderly  procession  of  young- 
sters march  out  of  the  building,  filled  though  it  was  with 
smoke  and  flames.  Owing  to  the  snow  and  the  slippery 
condition  of  the  streets,  the  fire  department  had  been  ap- 
preciably delayed  in  responding  to  the  alarm,  and  had  it 
not  been  that  the  Fire  Chief  had  insisted  on  and  enforced 
the  precautions  of  daily  drill  amongst  the  pupils,  the  loss 
of  life  might  have  been  appalling.  In  the  opinion  of  the 
writer,  all  concerned  deserve  the  maximum  of  praise;  the 
head  of  the  Fire  Department,  Sherwood  Brockwell,  a 


FIRE    CONTROL   IN    SCHOOLS,    ETC.         219 


graduate  of  the  New  York  Fire  College,  for  his  insistence, 
the  Superintendent  for  the  intelligent  way  in  which  the 
children  had  evidently  been  trained,  and  the  latter  for  their 
coolness  and  evident  trust  in  their  teachers.  It  is  no  ex- 
aggeration to  say  that  the  fire  peril  could  be  practically 
eliminated  in  schools,  were  the  example  of  Raleigh  fol- 
lowed. At  the  same  time  it  is  absolutely  incomprehensible 
how  sane  persons,  ignorant  though  they  might  be  of  the 
elementary  principles  of  fire  control,  could  allow  so  glar- 
ingly foolish  an  arrangement  to  be  made  as  that  which 
permitted  the  placing  of  a  furnace  immediately  under  the 
front  stairs  of  a  school  building,  apart  from  these  having 
been  constructed  of  wood.  Under  any  circumstances,  heat- 
ing apparatus  of  that  nature  should  be  located  in  a  separate 
structure  adjacent  to,  but  isolated  from,  the  school  itself. 

Should  fire  occur  during  school  hours  the  officer  in  com- 
mand of  the  fire  force  can  ascertain  quickly  from 
either  the  Principal  or  teachers  the  location  of  the 
fire,  which  will  govern  his  subsequent  actions.  Should 
it  be  in  the  upper  floors  the  entrance  must  not  be 
attempted  by  doors  or  stairways  by  which  the  children 
are  leaving,  though  use  may,  of  course,  be  made  of  any 
unused  stairway.  By  a  ladder  raised  to  an  upper  window 
a  line  of  hose  should  be  quickly  brought  to  bear  on  the 
blaze,  care  being  exercised  to  drive  it  back  from  the  exits. 
Other  lines  as  necessary  will  be  placed  similarly  and  the 
fire  thus  held  in  check  till  all  the  scholars  are  out  of  the 
danger  zone.  Then,  should  the  fire  assume  dangerous  pro- 
portions, it  may  be  fought  as  in  other  buildings,  i.  e.,  by 
stairways  both  front  and  rear,  and  if  necessary  from  both 
sides. 

Too  much  emphasis  cannot  be  laid  upon  the  necessity  of 
preventing  excited  parents  and  others  rushing  to  the  en- 
trances by  which  the  children  are  leaving  the  building, 
breaking  the  line,  causing  confusion  and  retarding  the  exit 
of  those  still  within.  However  good  their  intent,  their  in- 
terference must  work  mischief.  It  is  imperative  that  the 
children  be  kept  marching  until  all  are  safely  out  of  dan- 


220  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

ger.  Officers  in  command  should  see  that  an  adequate 
force  of  police  and  firemen  are  told  off  for  this  important 
duty. 

The  safety  of  the  shopping  public  in  the  enormous  de- 
partment stores,  which  have  latterly  sprung  up  in  all  Amer- 
ican cities,  and  for  that  matter,  in  Europe  as  well,  is  in 
itself  one  of  the  most  difficult  problems  which  those  inter- 
ested can  possibly  face.  Here  there  is  no  question  of 
drilling  regular  habitues,  for  the  population  is  a  floating 
one,  that  is  to  say,  the  attendants  and  employees  may  be 
trained  till  they  are  expert  in  the  duties  assigned  to  them, 
but  the  dealing  with,  and  dispersal  of,  great  hordes  of 
strangers  is  one  that  requires  almost  superhuman  manage- 
ment and  foresight.  In  fact,  in  the  opinion  of  many  it  is 
impracticable;  drills  are  rendered  difficult  by  the  constant 
presence  of  strangers,  a  test  alarm  may  produce  a  panic, 
when  even  those  gifted  with  the  maximum  of  human 
magnetism  would  find  the  control  of  strange  crowds  be- 
yond their  powers.  But,  at  least,  precautions  can  be  and 
are  taken. 

Abroad,  as  well  as  in  the  United  States,  efforts  have 
been  made  by  private  fire  departments,  which  should  al- 
ways be  captained  by  retired  officers  of  regular  fire  bri- 
gades, and  by  the  organization  of  all  employees  into  a  homo- 
geneous unit  of  action,  in  the  event  of  crisis  to  grapple  with 
the  events  likely  to  occur  so  far  as  circumstances  will  allow. 
No  human  agency  can  do  more.  The  study  of  scientific  fire 
control  is  of  recent  growth,  and  many  of  the  great  em- 
poria  which  dot  the  cities  of  the  world  are  the  result  of 
evolution,  but  as  a  rule  when  additions  are  made  to  such 
structures,  they  are  subjected  to  the  most  searching  of  fire 
tests  and  the  writer  can  aver  from  personal  experience  in 
New  York  that  neither  time  nor  money  has  been  spared 
to  render  the  same  as  secure  as  is  feasibly  possible.  In 
addition,  it  must  be  understood  that  under  no  circum- 
stances can  effective  drills  be  carried  out,  i.  e.,  as  though 
under  emergency  conditions,  unless  the  temper  of  the  public 
changes  in  an  amazing  degree.  However,  it  is  always 


FIRE   CONTROL  IN   SCHOOLS,   ETC.         221 

practicable  to  construct  some  sort  of  edifice  even  upon  the 
most  insecure  of  foundations,  and  certain  primary  pre- 
cautions though  in  no  way  adequate  properly  to  control 
the  situation,  may  go  a  long  way  towards  the  prevention 
of  a  disastrous  panic. 

In  brief,  all  that  has  been  written  may  be  taken  as  sup- 
plying in  embryonic  form  the  basis  of  department  store 
exit  drill;  that  is  to  say,  there  should  be  capable  "floor 
masters,"  capable  "guards,"  and  by  private  instruction  the 
actions  of  all  concerned  should  be  regulated.  Owing  to 
the  fact  that  many  of  the  employees  are  women  and  girls, 
men  should  be  chosen  to  fill  executive  posts,  that  some 
chance  be  given  to  their  weaker  colleagues  to  make  their 
escape,  whatever  occurs.  Upon  the  first  signal  of  the 
alarm,  each  member  of  the  staff  should,  as  in  factory  drill, 
clear  all  gangways  of  either  rubbish,  stock  or  obstructions. 
They  should  then  form  in  double  lines  along  the  aisles 
leading  to  the  exits.  Those  not  actively  employed  in  the 
emergency  organization  should  then  form  squads  and  in 
pairs,  women  holding  up  their  skirts,  march  to  the  exit 
they  have  been  previously  instructed  to  use.  The  elder 
women  in  all  departments  should  be  trained  to  lead  these 
lines  and,  incidentally,  their  example  is  sure  to  have  a 
steadying  effect  upon  both  their  subordinates  and  their 
customers.  But  the  real  problem  is  concentrated  in  how 
effectually  to  deal  with  the  casual  public,  who  throng 
these  buildings  daily  to  so  great  an  extent  that  it  is  esti- 
mated not  less  than  ten  thousand  persons  are  sometimes 
on  the  premises  at  the  same  moment.  Apart  altogether 
from  the  private  fire  brigades  maintained  by  these  estab- 
lishments, apart  altogether  from  fire  escapes  and  the  most 
modern  fire  precautions,  this  constitutes  the  real  peril  which 
must  be  initially  overcome.  It  can  only  be  accomplished 
by  constant  and  painstaking  training  of  every  individual 
employee  and  by  their  example,  coupled  with  the  exer- 
tions of  aisle  guards,  who  will  indicate  to  the  flurried  and 
hysterical,  how  safety  may  be  most  easily  reached.  At 
such  a  moment  one  cool  floor-walker  with  his  wits  about 


222  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

him  will  potentially  save  more  lives  than  the  best  equipped 
fire  department  which  ever  travelled  the  streets.  Con- 
quering a  fire  is  one  thing,  conquering  a  panic  another,  and, 
whereas  even  after  its  inception,  prompt  action  may  quell 
the  former,  the  latter  belongs  to  the  elemental  side  of  human 
nature  and  as  such  is  beyond  the  reach  of  science  or  ap- 
paratus. 

As  for  structural  safeguards,  the  disposal  of  rubbish 
and  other  means  towards  fire  control,  they  are  dealt  with 
elsewhere,  though  the  cardinal  factor  of  human  tempera- 
ment can  never  be  altered  or  modified  by  such  ex- 
ternal measures,  except  inasmuch  as  the  knowledge  of 
their  presence  tends,  to  a  certain  degree,  to  alleviate 
fear. 

If  the  employees  of  a  department  store  are  faced  with 
an  enigma  in  dealing  with  their  customers,  then  most  as- 
suredly the  staff  of  any  hospital  have  every  reason  to  fear 
fire  and  its  accompanying  risks.  Here  the  problem  is  com- 
plicated by  the  absolute  helplessness  of  the  patients  and  the 
possibility  that  severe  shock,  in  some  instances,  may  result 
in  death.  But  on  the  other  hand,  nurses,  attendants  and 
doctors  are  all  persons  of  superior  intelligence  and  may 
be  expected  to  carry  out  instructions,  not  like  automatons, 
according  to  the  letter,  but  with  due  regard  to  prevailing 
conditions. 

Equally,  fire  control  in  hospitals  has  for  long  absorbed 
the  ingenuity  of  architects  with  the  result  that,  generally 
speaking,  they  are  well  safeguarded.  At  the  same  time, 
however,  certain  simple  devices  can  easily  be  installed, 
amongst  the  most  valuable  of  which  are  "fire  breaks," 
which  acting  automatically  accomplish  in  corridors  with 
flames  precisely  what  watertight  doors  accomplish  in  ships 
with  water.  In  other  words,  they  delay  the  enemy,  and 
if  unsuccessful  in  their  passive  defense,  at  least  hold  him 
in  check  long  enough  to  insure  the  adoption  of  precau- 
tionary measures  for  those  concerned.  In  simple  language, 
they  may  be  described  as  iron  drop-doors,  which  being 
operated,  cut  off  the  area  involved  from  the  rest  of  the 


FIRE   CONTROL   IN   SCHOOLS,   ETC.        223 

building.  Further,  though  properly  speaking  this  is  a 
structural  safeguard,  the  employment  of  fire-towers  is 
strongly  to  be  recommended.  These  consist  of  a  covered 
staircase  adjacent  to,  but  distinct  from,  the  main  building, 
and  connected  by  iron  gangways  at  each  floor.  Thus,  by 
closing  the  exit  doors,  which  are  fireproof,  a  completely 
isolated  staircase  is  formed,  down  which  patients  can  be 
moved  to  safety  without  hurry  or  alarm.  Incidentally,- 
these  towers  form  admirable  adjuncts  to  all  classes  of 
structures  and  public  edifices  habitually  frequented  by  num- 
bers of  persons  of  both  sexes  and  all  ages.  It  seems  un- 
necessary to  insist  once  more  upon  the  careful  disposal  of 
all  rubbish,  since  such  a  precaution  appears  to  belong  to 
the  obvious.  But  the  writer's  experience  has  taught  him 
that  it  is  precisely  the  most  ordinary  safeguards  which 
are  habitually  neglected. 

Finally,  the  following  recommendations  may  be  accepted 
as  applicable  to  all  classes  of  buildings,  and  if  adopted, 
promise  a  large  measure  of  safety  for  occupants. 

(a)  All  stairways  or  a  sufficient  number  of  them  should 
be  located  in  fireproof  shafts,  having  no  communication 
with  the  main  structure,  except  indirectly  by  way  of  an 
open-air  balcony,  or  vestibule,  on  each  floor.     Hose  con- 
nections attached  to  standpipes  should  be  located  on  each 
floor   in   the   stair-towers   available   either    for   public   or 
private  fire  department  use. 

(b)  Stairs,  if  any,  inside  the  building,  and  elevators, 
should  be  enclosed  in  shafts  of  masonry,  and  have  fire  doors 
at  all  floor  communications. 

(c)  Old  buildings  with  inadequate  fire  escapes  should 
be  provided  with  automatic  sprinklers,  or  smoke-proof  stair 
towers,  but  outside  fire-escapes  passing  in  front  of  or  near 
windows  should  be  discouraged. 

(d)  All   factory  buildings  employing  operators  in  the 
manufacture  of  inflammable  goods  should  be  fitted  with 
automatic  sprinklers,  and  this  system  should  likewise  be 
extended  to  all  classes  of  structures  generally  frequented 
by  a  considerable  number  of  persons. 


224  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

(e)  Large  floor  areas  should  be  subdivided  by  fireproof 
partitions  or  brick  walls. 

The  above  are  not  counsels  of  perfection  and  are  well 
within  the  reach  of  those  having  the  safety  of  their  fellow- 
creatures  at  heart. 


CHAPTER  XVI 

FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM 

COMPARISONS  are  often  instituted  between  the  fire  risks 
of  London  and  New  York.  It  is  glibly  pointed  out  by  sta- 
tisticians with  facile  pens  that,  whereas  for  every  one 
hundred  thousand  inhabitants,  London  averages  eighty-one 
and  New  York  three  hundred  fires,  and  whereas  the  popu- 
lation of  London  is  considerably  greater  than  that  of  New 
York,  ergo,  fire  control  in  the  former  city  has  attained 
to  a  higher  degree  of  scientific  evolution  than  in  the  latter, 
and  further  deductions  are  drawn  according  to  the  nation- 
ality and  enthusiasm  of  the  individual.  But  such  reasoning 
is  founded  upon  the  superficial  aspect  of  the  subject,  with- 
out taking  into  consideration  the  numerous  contributive  fac- 
tors governing  the  problem.  In  the  first  place,  in  making 
these  invidious  comparisons,  writers  forget  that  units  of 
apparatus,  ability  of  personnel  and  general  efficiency  may 
be  on  a  par  in  two  separate  fire-fighting  organizations,  but, 
owing  to  local  causes  and  climatic  conditions,  the  annual 
record  of  the  two  may  be  widely  divergent.  New  York 
has  certain  disadvantages  with  which  to  contend.  Its  mod- 
ern buildings  are  the  highest  in  the  world,  in  themselves 
a  staggering  question  for  the  fire-fighter ;  in  portions  of  the 
city  there  are  streets  comprising  nothing  but  wooden  build- 
ings which  burn  like  torches;  extremes  of  climate  render 
fires  more  prevalent  and  more  hazardous;  the  alien  popu- 
lation is  vast  and  criminally  careless;  and,  finally,  un- 
fortunately, "arson"  has  grown  to  be  regarded  amongst 
undesirables  as  a  legitimate  and  easy  way  of  obtaining 

insurance  as  a  form  of  income.     Any  unprejudiced  ob- 

225 


226  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

server  will  allow  that  in  these  respects  London  is  more 
fortunately  situated,  which  admission  detracts  in  no  whit 
from  the  standard  of  excellence  of  both  departments,  which 
are  well  worthy  of  the  great  capitals  they  represent.  In 
considering  rather  more  particularly  the  outstanding  fea- 
tures of  its  brigade,  London,  in  common  with  all  other 
English  cities,  has  no  need  for  the  heavy  appliances  usually 
seen  in  America.  Owing  to  the  narrow  tortuous  streets 
in  all  ancient  towns,  the  manipulation  of  weighty  apparatus 
with  lengthy  wheel  bases  becomes  practically  impossible, 
while  the  average  building  constructed  of  stone  and  of  only 
four  or  five  stories  in  height  does  not  constitute  a  grave 
fire  risk.  The  residential  area  of  London  is  chiefly  com- 
posed of  such  erections,  and  even  in  the  wealthier  suburbs, 
where  the  houses  stand  in  their  own  grounds,  this  fact 
of  itself  is  sufficient  to  prevent  a  serious  conflagration.  In 
the  eastern  section  of  the  Metropolitan  district  and  along  the 
docks  and  wharves  lining  the  river  Thames,  the  risks  are 
materially  greater,  and  hence  there  is  a  considerable  con- 
centration of  strength  in  this  locality,  though  it  is  worthy 
of  note  that  of  the  sixty-five  outbreaks  classified  as  serious 
during  the  year  1911,  about  thirty-four  occurred  in  quarters 
inhabited  by  aliens,  a  sufficiently  good  indication  of  the 
truth  of  the  preceding  statement,  that  these  foreign  colonies 
are  a  fruitful  source  of  anxiety  to  the  authorities  of  any 
city.  It  is  also  of  interest  that  of  the  grand  total  of  four 
thousand  and  odd  fires  during  that  year,  no  less  than  1762 
were  directly  attributed  to  carelessness,  while  only  twenty- 
eight  resulted  from  arson.  Prior  to  the  year  1866  the  pro- 
tection of  London  from  fire  depended  upon  an  organization 
known  as  "The  London  Fire  Engine  Establishment,"  which 
consisted  of  only  one  hundred  and  thirty  officers  and  men, 
operating  seventeen  stations.  The  cost  of  its  mainten- 
ance was  chiefly  borne  by  fire  insurance  companies  and  its 
duties  were  practically  confined  to  "fire  quenching."  For 
the  saving  of  life  from  fire  during  many  years,  the  "Royal 
Society  for  the  Protection  of  Life  from  Fire,"  which  was 
supported  by  voluntary  contributions,  supplied  and  manned 


FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM      227 

some  eighty-five  fire-escapes  which  were  stationed  in  va- 
rious parts  of  the  city,  few  being  in  the  suburbs.  There 
were  in  addition,  several  so-called  volunteer  fire  brigades, 
which  were  not  under  the  direct  control  of  any  recog- 
nized authority,  and  proved  a  veritable  thorn  in  the  flesh 
to  the  Municipality.  Having  no  definite  financial  support, 
they  employed  "collectors,"  with  the  result  that  the  un- 
fortunate rate-payers  were  solicited  for  contributions  to- 
wards associations  which,  with  rare  exceptions,  seldom 
performed  any  useful  service,  and  for  the  disposal  of  whose 
funds  there  was  no  adequate  guarantee.  Moreover,  it  was 
customary  for  these  gentlemen  to  wear  a  uniform  similar 
to  that  of  the  professional  fire-fighters,  causing  a  good  deal 
of  acrimonious  confusion  amongst  those  who  were  under 
the  impression  that  they  had  contributed  towards  the  funds 
of  the  professional  fire  brigade. 

The  Act  of  Parliament  of  1865,  however,  put  an  end 
to  this  ambiguous  state  of  affairs,  and  on  January  ist  of 
the  following  year  the  Metropolitan  Board  of  Works  as- 
sumed the  responsibilities  of  the  two  first  mentioned  or- 
ganizations, under  the  title  of  "The  Metropolitan  Fire 
Brigade."  As  for  the  volunteers,  they  lingered  for  some 
time,  being  disbanded  one  by  one,  till  in  1900,  the  sole 
surviving  company,  located  in  Islington,  closed  its  doors. 
The  funds  provided  by  the  aforesaid  Act  for  the  main- 
tenance of  the  Brigade  were:  (A)  contributions  by  the 
fire  insurance  companies  at  the  rate  of  £35  ($175)  per 
million  of  the  gross  amounts  insured  by  them  in  respect 
of  property  in  London.  This  was  calculated  to  bring  in 
about  £10,000  ($50,000)  annually,  while  in  addition,  the 
buildings  and  staff  of  the  "London  Fire  Engines  Estab- 
lishment" were  handed  over  free  of  charge.  (B)  A  gov- 
ernment grant  of  £10,000  ($50,000)  a  year,  in  considera- 
tion of  the  protection  afforded  public  buildings  and  offices. 
(C)  The  produce  of  a  halfpenny  rate  (i  cent)  on  all  the 
rateable  property  in  London,  which,  it  was  estimated,  would 
realize  a  sum  of  £30,000  ($150,000)  a  year.  It  will  thus 
be  seen  that  less  than  half  a  century  ago  it  was  decided 


228  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

after  careful  debate  that  the  fire  control  of  London  could 
be  accomplished  for  the  expenditure  of  £50,000  ($250,000) 
per  annum,  whereas  today  it  costs  in  the  neighbourhood  of 
£270,000  ($1,350,000)  or  more  than  five  times  as  much, 
and  there  is  no  probability  of  any  finality  having  been 
reached.  To  defray  this  constant  increase,  varied  legisla- 
tion was  introduced,  till  the  Local  Government  Act  of  1888 
virtually  repealed  any  limitation  of  the  amount  which  might 
be  raised  from  the  rate-payers  for  fire  brigade  purposes. 
Incidentally,  it  is  an  interesting  historical  fact  that  the 
year  1865,  which  saw  the  birth  of  the  modern  London 
Fire  Brigade  likewise  witnessed  the  genesis  of  the  existing 
New  York  Fire  Department. 

The  first  Chief  of  the  newly  formed  organization  was 
the  late  Captain  Sir  Eyre  Massey  Shaw,  K.C.B.,  who,  an 
Irishman  by  birth,  had  previously  been  in  charge  of  the 
Belfast  Fire  Department  and  whose  subsequent  twenty-five 
years  of  service  with  the  London  command  witnessed  the 
stations  of  the  Brigade  quadrupled,  and  the  strength  of 
the  personnel  increased  from  one  hundred  and  thirty  to 
seven  hundred  men. 

Amongst  the  more  important  changes  which  he  intro- 
duced were  the  street  fire  alarm  system  and  the  substitution 
of  telephonic  for  telegraphic  communication  between  sta- 
tions. From  its  formation  until  1904,  the  force  was  known 
as  the  Metropolitan  Fire  Brigade,  when,  with  the  sanction 
of  Parliament,  it  was  designated  the  London  Fire  Brigade. 
The  old  title  was  somewhat  misleading,  since  large  districts 
in  the  London  area  are  outside  London  county  proper,  and 
though  on  occasion  the  services  of  the  Brigade  may  be 
summoned  to  assist  suburban  fire  departments,  it  is  then 
entitled  to  make  a  pecuniary  charge  for  the  same.  Thus, 
for  the  attendance  of  a  steam  fire-engine  the  scale  of 
payment  is  a  preliminary  fee  of  £2  ($10),  with  an  addi- 
tional £i  ($5)  for  every  hour  or  part  of  an  hour  during 
which  it  may  be  working.  A  fireboat  costs  as  much  as 
£6  ($30)  for  the  initial  expense  of  its  attendance,  each 
succeeding  hour  being  rated  at  £i($5).  The  manner  in 


p 

FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM      229 

which  this  expense  must  be  borne  is  clearly  indicated  in  the 
following  excerpt  from  the  official  regulations:  "In  such 
cases  the  owner  and  occupant  of  the  property  on  which 
the  fire  occurs  are  jointly  and  severally  liable  to  pay  a 
reasonable  charge  in  respect  of  the  attendance  of  the  bri- 
gade." This  in  itself  is  sufficiently  clear,  at  least  in  theory, 
but  in  practice  there  must  at  times  be  some  difficulty  in  col- 
lecting such  charges,  in  which  case  presumably  the  rate- 
payers of  the  borough  concerned  must  be  held  responsible. 
Without  wishing  to  be  hypercritical,  it  does  appear  to  the 
writer  that  such  a  system  is  open  to  grave  disadvantages, 
since  it  is  seldom  the  destruction  of  one  individual  building 
which  is  at  stake,  but  rather  the  possibility  of  the  fire  spread- 
ing and  endangering  a  large  area.  On  the  other  hand,  it 
may  be  argued  that  those  who  do  not  assist  in  supporting 
the  organization  have  no  right  to  expect  the  free  use  of  its 
apparatus  and  personnel.  Hence,  it  becomes  a  question 
beyond  the  criticism  of  one  not  conversant  with  local  con- 
ditions. To  accommodate  the  London  Brigade  there  are 
eighty-three  stations  or  engine  houses,  though  in  addition 
there  still  remain  some  of  the  old  "street  stations/'  wooden 
shelters  in  which  as  a  rule  are  kept  extension  ladders  and 
which,  owing  to  the  inconvenience  they  cause  vehicular 
traffic,  are  fast  being  superseded. 

For  the  extinction  of  riverside  or  wharf  outbreaks, 
fireboats  are  stationed  at  certain  points  on  the  river,  their 
crews  being  lodged  either  in  adjacent  fire-stations  or  in 
buildings  especially  erected  for  the  purpose.  The  general 
principle  determining  the  distribution  of  fire-stations  in 
London  is  the  necessity  of  ensuring  (a)  the  speedy  arrival 
after  a  call  of  life-saving  and  fire-extinguishing  appliances 
at  any  spot  in  the  protected  area;  (b)  the  concentration 
of  one  hundred  men  within  fifteen  minutes  in  any  dangerous 
location  for  large  fires.  On  receipt  of  an  alarm,  the  fire 
appliances  turn  out  with  all  possible  speed,  sliding  poles  for 
men  on  duty  and  automatic  hitches  for  harnessing  the 
horses  being  now  of  almost  universal  adoption  and  render- 
ing a  start  feasible  within  the  space  of  a  few  seconds.  It 


230  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

is  the  custom  for  the  life-saving  appliances  to  leave  first, 
which  on  the  face  of  it  is  humanitarian,  though  perhaps 
not  eminently  practical.  Unaided  by  other  apparatus,  ex- 
cept under  rare  circumstances,  it  can  accomplish  little.  All 
appliances  at  the  station  nearest  to  the  scene  of  an  outbreak 
are  withdrawn  for  service,  leaving  one  man  behind  in  the 
watch-room  to  preserve  telephonic  communication  between 
the  officer  in  charge  at  the  fire  and  the  district  superinten- 
dent, while  the  former  has  power  also  to  obtain  the  assist- 
ance of  the  engines  located  at  the  station  next  to  his.  Ar- 
rived at  the  outbreak,  the  fire  chief  classifies  it  according 
to  its  severity,  and  transmits  one  of  the  three  following 
calls:  I. — The  "Home  call,"  which  signifies  that  he  is  con- 
fident that  he  can  deal  with  it  by  means  of  the  apparatus 
at  his  command.  2. — The  "District  call,"  which  means 
that  more  assistance  is  required,  but  that  it  can  be  obtained 
from  adjacent  stations,  and,  3. — The  "Brigade  call,"  which 
is  an  appeal  to  headquarters  for  both  men  and  apparatus. 
Such  a  system,  certainly,  as  applied  to  any  city  with  a  con- 
siderable fire  risk,  is  open  to  grave  defects.  In  the  first 
place  the  telephone  operator  left  at  the  station  of  the  first 
alarm  is  in  a  difficult  position  if  another  alarm  comes  in 
from  the  surrounding  neighbourhood,  and  might  well  be- 
come flurried  and  misunderstand  orders.  It  is  imperative 
that  there  should  be  direct  communication  between  the  Fire 
Chief  and  his  lieutenants,  otherwise  there  can  be  little 
hope  of  effective  cooperation.  In  addition  no  provision 
is  made  for  one  engine  house  to  cover  another,  so  that  in 
the  event  of  several  fires  in  the  same  area  all  can  be  quickly 
and  efficiently  attacked.  The  policy  employed  appears 
rather  to  be  one  of  centralization  of  men  and  apparatus, 
robbed  of  half  its  efficacy  by  roundabout  and  clumsy  means 
of  giving  and  receiving  orders.  At  any  rate,  it  is  certain 
that  in  a  city  like  New  York  the  practice  of  taking  all  the 
appliances  from  a  fire  station  and  leaving  it  unprotected 
would  be  fraught  with  the  most  terrible  danger  to  public 
property  and  would,  in  fact,  never  be  tolerated  by  those 
responsible.  Local  conditions  may  vary  and  materially  in- 


FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM      231 

fluence  fire  organization,  but  the  cardinal  points  of  fighting 
strategy  are  the  same  the  world  over  and,  as  in  regular 
warfare,  one  of  the  most  important  is  ever  to  be  prepared 
for  a  flank  or  rear  attack. 

The  present  strength  of  the  London  brigade  con- 
sists of  one  Chief  Officer,  four  Divisional  officers, 
211  subordinate  officers,  and  1,163  ran^  anc*  ^e» 
including  men  under  instructions,  pilots  and  coachmen. 
Considering  the  prevailing  wages  in  England,  the  scale  of 
payments  is  adequate,  starting  with  £1,000  ($5,000)  a  year 
for  the  Chief,  a  maximum  of  £245  ($1,225)  for  Superin- 
tendents, while  the  ordinary  fireman  receives  35/-  ($8.75) 
a  week  after  qualifying  as  efficient  and  passing  certain 
tests.  Quarters  are  provided  for  single  and  married  men 
alike,  a  minimum  charge  being  made  for  the  same  ranging 
from  4/-  ($i)  per  week  for  married  firemen  to  i/-  (25 
cents)  for  single  men.  Incidentally  it  is  compulsory  to  live 
in  these  quarters,  which  are  in  every  case  situated  over 
the  engine  houses.  After  five  years  of  approved  service 
and  less  than  fifteen,  there  is  a  gratuity  of  one  month's 
pay  for  each  year  of  such  service.  Upon  the  completion  of 
fifteen  years,  three-tenths  of  the  pay  then  being  received 
is  allocated  as  pension.  Those  who  serve  for  a  longer  period 
receive  corresponding  increases,  until,  with  twenty-eight 
years  of  service,  the  pension  amounts  to  two-thirds  of  the 
nominal  pay.  In  the  event  of  those  incapacitated  from 
further  service  through  injuries  received  in  the  execution 
of  their  duty,  a  special  allowance  is  made  according  to  the 
particular  merits  of  the  case.  Pensions  are  also  allowed  to 
the  widow,  and  children  of  officers  and  men  killed  while 
on  duty.  The  regulations  are  unusually  considerate  in  that 
in  the  case  of  a  widow  remarrying,  although  her  pension  is 
to  be  suspended  from  the  date  of  her  remarriage,  should  she 
for  the  second  time  become  a  widow,  it  may  be  restored 
on  proof  that  her  circumstances  are  such  that  it  is  necessary 
for  her  support  and  that  she  is  deserving  of  the  public 
bounty. 

For  many  years  it  was  customary  to  enroll  as  firemen 


232  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

none  but  seafaring  men,  but  lately  this  has  been 
modified  and  now  entry  to  the  brigade's  ranks  is  open  to 
all  possessed  of  the  necessary  qualifications.  As  regards 
promotion,  this  is  limited,  inasmuch  as  the  senior  officers 
of  the  force  are  usually  drawn  from  the  executive  branch 
of  the  Royal  Navy,  or  are  engineers  of  repute  in  some 
specialized  section  of  their  chosen  profession.  This  forms 
a  radical  difference  between  the  practice,  not  alone  of  the 
United  States,  but  of  most  foreign  countries.  True,  in  Ger- 
many and  France,  senior  officers  are  men  of  naval  or  mili- 
tary training,  but  they  join  the  fire  service  as  youths  and 
work  their  way  up  through  the  various  degrees  of  command 
in  a  precisely  similar  manner  as  they  would  were  they 
attached  to  the  Army  or  Navy.  But  the  point  is  that  they 
are  thoroughly  trained  at  every  step  and  though  the  system 
is  by  no  means  ideal,  it  is  preferable  to  the  appointment 
of  officers  to  a  highly  scientific  corps,  who  though  no  doubt 
able  and  intelligent  men  cannot  possibly  possess  either  theo- 
retical or  practical  knowledge  of  the  subject  with  which 
they  are  called  upon  to  deal.  In  America  it  is  no  exag- 
geration to  say  that  every  newly  enlisted  fireman  is  a  po- 
tential chief;  it  depends  solely  upon  the  ability  and 
determination  of  the  individual  whether  or  no  he  shall  rise 
to  a  position  of  executive  importance,  or  whether  he  shall 
spend  all  his  days  in  the  ranks.  This  must  prove  a  powerful 
incentive  to  any  normal  character  to  go  forward  and  win, 
and  it  may  be  asserted  without  fear  of  contradiction  that  the 
fireman  devoid  of  ambition  is  of  little  use  to  any  fire 
department.  It  has  been  argued  time  and  again  that  the 
rank  and  file  are  apt  to  prove  insubordinate  when  one  of 
their  number  is  delegated  to  be  in  command  over  them. 
Certainly  in  American  fire  practice  this  has  never  proved 
the  case.  Rather  has  it  been  the  opposite,  and  the  men 
have  been  proud  in  the  success  of  one  of  their  comrades. 
Further,  in  the  opinion  of  the  writer,  the  profession  of 
fire-fighting  is  one  which  demands  that  those  adopting  it 
as  a  calling  should  be  equally  versed  in  all  branches  of  its 
requirements  in  practice  and  theory.  This  entails  actual 


FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM      233 

experience  in  physically  as  well  as  mentally  fighting  fires. 
It  means  familiarity  with  the  handling  of  hose,  the  man- 
agement of  extension  ladders  and  that  intimacy  with  fire 
as  an  enemy  which  can  only  be  gained  first-hand.  It  goes 
without  saying  that  the  officer  in  charge  of  a  battleship's 
barbette  guns  is  thoroughly  conversant  with  every  detail 
of  their  mechanism,  with  their  muzzle  velocities,  with  their 
arc  of  fire,  with  the  individual  merits  of  their  projectiles, 
be  they  armour-piercing  or  high  explosive.  In  fact,  he  is 
a  master  of  craft  learned  in  the  school  of  experience.  Why 
then  should  less  be  expected  of,  or  demanded  from,  officers 
in  charge  of  equipment  with  which  to  fight  every  whit  as 
dangerous  an  enemy  as  ever  sailed  a  sea,  when  lives  unnum- 
bered and  property  beyond  calculation  may  depend 
upon  their  actions,  and  when  it  must  be  remembered  that 
every  fight  is  a  I'outrance,  without  chance  of  armistice. 

Turning  now  to  the  matter  of  appliances,  the  eighty-six 
fire  stations  are  equipped  with  seventy-two  horsed  steam 
fire-engines,  three  steam  and  fifteen  petrol  motor  fire- 
engines,  sixteen  mechanically  driven  fire-escapes,  one  hun- 
dred and  ninety-one  ordinary  fire-escapes,  ninety-four  hook 
and  ladder  trucks,  eleven  hose  and  coal  vans,  one  motor 
lorry,  ninety  hose  carts,  and  fifty-six  miles  of  hose,  not 
including  a  large  amount  of  smaller  apparatus.  Of  the 
steam  fire-engines,  it  is  noticeable  that  some  of  them,  though 
of  antiquated  pattern,  are  still  adequate  for  useful  service, 
thus  one  has  been  in  use  since  1878,  or  over  a  quarter  of 
a  century.  All  the  modern  types  are  double-cylindered, 
their  average  pumping  capacity  being  one  and  three-quarters 
English  gallons  per  revolution.  In  every  case,  axles  and 
wheels  are  made  to  gauge  and  are  interchangeable.  Some 
of  the  engines  are  fitted  with  burners  for  using  petroleum 
as  fuel.  For  a  number  of  years  it  has  been  the  practice 
to  keep  a  sufficient  pressure  of  steam  in  the  boilers  of  all 
engines  to  enable  a  full  working  head  to  be  obtained  in 
from  two  to  three  minutes  after  leaving  the  station. 

Since  1901,  motor  traction  has  been  gradually  introduced, 
and  though  the  steam-propelled  fire-engines  have  not  given 


234  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

entire  satisfaction  and  are  even  now  for  sale,  there  is  no 
doubt,  as  elsewhere,  that  motor  traction  has  come  to  stay, 
and  in  course  of  time  the  horse  will  be  eliminated  from  the 
department.  As  regards  ladders,  the  largest  in  use  by  the 
brigade  are  those  of  eighty-two  feet,  that  being  their  verti- 
cal height  from  the  ground  when  fully  extended.  Being 
heavy  and  requiring  a  strong  crew,  they  are  used  primar- 
ily for  facilitating  fire-extinguishing  operations.  The  work 
of  their  extension  is  controlled  by  a  small  motor,  worked 
by  a  compressed  carbonic  acid  arrangement,  or  in  emer- 
gency by  hand,  and  being  mounted  on  a  turn-table  fixed  to 
a  horse-drawn  carriage,  are  known  generally  as  "turn-table 
long  ladders."  For  regular  "fire-escape  work,"  the  ladders 
used  are  fifty-five  and  seventy  feet,  of  the  telescopic  pat- 
tern. Motor-escapes  are  being  introduced,  but  their  use  has 
by  no  means  become  general.  As  regards  horse-drawn  ap- 
pliances, which  are  still  largely  in  the  majority,  the  animals 
are  hired  from  job-masters,  and  the  price  paid,  including 
ordinary  harness,  fodder,  straw,  and  stable  utensils, 
amounts  to  about  £70  ($350)  per  horse  per  annum.  The 
job-masters  take  all  risks.  At  stations  where  automatic 
harness  is  in  use  belonging  to  the  department,  a  reduction 
°f  55/-  ($J3)  is  made.  Practically  all  the  horsed  escapes 
are  fitted  with  appliances  known  as  first-aid  fire-extinguish- 
ing machines.  These  consist  of  a  tank  containing  water 
connected  with  a  cylinder  of  compressed  air,  which,  being 
operated,  can  maintain  a  jet  for  from  four  to  four  and 
a  half  minutes.  There  are  about  eighty-one  of  these  ap- 
pliances in  use,  but  the  chemical  engine,  per  se,  is  unknown. 
Such  additional  apparatus  as  cellar  pipes,  smoke  helmets 
and  a  small  number  of  hook  ladders  are  in  regular  use, 
but  it  is  noticeable  that  the  water  tower  and  other  forms 
of  heavy  equipment  are  lacking,  which  is  to  be  accounted 
for  by  the  low  buildings  and  narrow  streets.  It  is  almost 
a  pity  that  a  picturesque  survival  of  ancient  days  has  lat- 
terly passed  from  the  London  fire  department.  Not  many 
years  ago  it  was  customary  for  firemen,  proceeding  to  the 
scene  of  outbreak,  to  herald  their  progress  by  shouting 


FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM      235 

"Hi  Hi  Hi!"     Some  five  years  ago  this  was  discontinued, 
and  a  brass  bell  substituted. 

Some  reference  may  here  be  made  to  the  floating  fire 
equipment  of  the  London  brigade.  This  has  been  developed 
under  peculiarly  restricted  conditions,  since  the  Thames 
is  a  tidal  river  with  only  five  feet  of  water  in  places  at 
low  tide.  Moreover,  most  of  the  traffic  is  carried  on  in 
heavily  laden  barges,  with  low  free-boards,  handicapping 
fire  boats  as  regards  their  speed,  owing  to  the  liability  of 
their  wash  swamping  the  former.  Finally,  these  "fire 
floats"  are  limited  as  to  their  length  and  breadth,  since  it 
is  necessary  so  to  arrange  their  dimensions  that  they  may 
easily  enter  the  connecting  locks  of  docks  and  canals,  while 
their  height  above  the  water  line  must  also  permit  them  to 
pass  under  low  bridges.  Considering  the  enormous  dock 
area  of  the  Port  of  London,  the  greatest  credit  is  due  to 
the  officers  and  men  for  the  ability  and  technical  skill  which 
they  display  in  defending  the  vast  responsibility  committed 
to  their  charge,  which,  owing  to  the  conditions  already 
stated,  rendered  the  problem  one  of  the  most  difficult  of 
solution  in  the  world.  The  first  vessel  to  be  built  was  the 
"Alpha,"  a  twin  screw  boat,  eighty  feet  in  length,  with  a 
beam  of  sixteen  feet  and  a  draught  of  three,  on  a  displace- 
ment of  sixty-three  tons,  and  having  a  speed  of  ten  knots. 
It  was  fitted  with  pumps  capable,  of  discharging  1,250 
English  gallons  a  minute.  This  was  succeeded  by  another 
handy  little  vessel,  the  "Beta,"  equipped  with  four  pumps, 
each  with  a  discharging  capacity  of  1,000  English  gallons 
a  minute  at  140  pounds  pump  pressure.  These  have  been 
followed  by  the  introduction  of  motor  fire  floats,  pro- 
pelled by  internal  combustion  gasoline  engines.  The  latest 
addition  embodies  several  new  principles.  With  a  length  of 
one  hundred  feet  and  a  beam  of  nineteen,  the  draught  of 
water  is  only  two  feet.  She  is  propelled  by  triple  screws 
driven  by  sixty  horse  power  engines,  and  the  collective  de- 
livery of  her  pumps  is  about  1,500  English  gallons  a  minute. 
The  screws  work  in  tunnels,  and  her  design  is  such  that 
when  proceeding  at  full  speed,  about  eleven  knots,  the  bow 


236  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

wave  is  absorbed  under  the  bottom  of  the  vessel  and  little 
or  no  wash  is  apparent. 

With  the  object  of  ensuring  that  the  fire  brigade  shall  be 
readily  and  easily  summoned  when  a  fire  occurs,  great  at- 
tention is  being  paid  to  increasing  the  facilities  by  which 
it  may  be  called,  and  in  making  them  known  to  the  public. 
Connected  with  every  engine  house  are  fire  alarms  situated 
in  the  chief  thoroughfares,  the  number  varying  with  the 
fire  risks  of  the  area.  These  alarms  are  equipped  and 
supervised  by  the  Post  Office,  an  annual  rent  being  paid  for 
their  use,  as  also  in  the  case  of  the  station  telephones.  In 
1911,  the  number  of  these  alarm  boxes  totalled  1,545,  and 
the  Council  of  the  fire  department  have  a  scheme  for  their 
augmentation  on  a  large  scale  at  present  under  considera- 
tion. It  is  worthy  of  note  that  a  number  of  posts  in  the 
East  end  of  the  city  have  recently  been  fitted  with  tablets 
bearing  instructions  for  their  use  in  Yiddish.  All  street 
alarms  are  adapted  for  the  transmission  of  telephone  mes- 
sages by  firemen,  suitable  instruments  being  carried  on  all 
brigade  appliances  for  this  purpose.  The  principal  police 
stations  are  in  telephonic  communication  with  the  fire  sta- 
tions, and  this  also  exists  between  the  latter  and  the  ma- 
jority of  public  and  other  large  buildings,  such  as  theatres 
and  so  forth.  During  1911  the  total  number  of  calls 
amounted  to  6,868,  working  out  at  a  daily  average  of 
nineteen,  through  on  the  I4th  of  August,  during  a  great 
heat  wave,  there  were  fifty-three.  In  England  it  is  a  crim- 
inal offense  to  send  in  a  malicious  false  alarm,  and  a  person 
so  doing  is  liable  to  a  penalty  not  exceeding  £25  ($125)  or 
imprisonment  for  three  months  with  hard  labour.  From 
the  latest  report  it  appears  that  the  total  of  malicious  false 
alarms  has  increased  considerably,  amounting  now  to  357, 
which  constitutes  a  record.  This  increase  can  only  be 
explained  by  the  unwelcome  attention  of  the  suffragettes 
with  militant  tendencies.  It  is  outside  the  scope  of  this 
work  to  enter  upon  a  dissertation  concerning  the  rights  and 
wrongs  of  the  movement,  but  as  far  as  fire  duty  is  concerned 
there  can  be  only  one  opinion.  Every  false  alarm  draws 


FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM      237 

men  and  apparatus  away  from  a  certain  area,  which  is 
thus  left  so  much  the  less  prepared  to  meet  an  attack 
by  fire,  while  it  stands  to  reason  that  constantly  responding 
to  these  calls  unnecessarily  fatigues  men  and  horses  and 
renders  them  less  fit  for  duty.  Hence,  the  action  of  these 
women  constitutes  a  menace  to  the  community  and  is  one 
of  selfish  egotism  deserving  not  alone  the  condemnation 
of  every  right-minded  citizen,  but  the  infliction  of  such 
punishment  as  shall  render  similar  behaviour  in  the  future, 
even  on  the  part  of  half-crazed  fanatics,  unlikely  to  occur. 
There  is  a  considerable  fluctuation  in  the  number  of  fires 
reported  annually  in  London.  Thus,  in  1907,  the  total 
of  3,320  was  a  decrease  of  523  on  the  preceding  year  and 
represented  a  financial  loss  of  £493,389.  1908  and  1909 
saw  the  decrease  continue,  the  latter  year  having  123  fires 
less  than  1907,  though  the  financial  loss  shot  up  to  £699,329. 
It  remained,  however,  for  1911  to  beat  all  previous  records, 
the  number  of  fires  amounting  to  4,403,  an  increase  of 
1,195,  monetary  loss  being  £789,003,  or  nearly  four  mil- 
lion dollars.  The  extended  use  of  motor  vehicles  has  an 
important  bearing  both  on  the  outbreaks  registered  and  on 
the  amount  of  the  fire  loss,  since  fires  in  garages  are  common 
and  the  values  involved  considerable.  Chimney  fires  are 
not  included  in  these  statistics,  though  their  number  aver- 
ages about  800  per  annum.  In  this  connection  it  may  be 
remarked  that,  by  a  special  Act  of  1900,  the  occupant  of  any 
house  the  chimney  of  which  catches  fire,  must  pay  towards 
the  cost  of  the  London  fire  brigade,  a  fine  fixed  upon  the 
rateable  value  of  the  premises  ranging  from  2/6  (.60), 
up  to  a  maximum  of  £i  ($5). 

The  training  of  the  men  belonging  to  the  brigade  is  suffi- 
cient for  the  demands  made  upon  them,  particular  attention 
being  given  to  motor  engineering,  instruction  in  first  aid, 
and  gymnastics.  The  following  excerpt,  however,  taken 
from  the  last  official  report  issued,  throws  a  curious  light 
upon  the  somewhat  haphazard  methods  employed  in  the 
physical  training  of  the  men:  "Early  in  1911  the  fitting 
up  at  the  Manchester  Square  fire  station  of  a  gymnasium 


238  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

with  apparatus  for  carrying  out  Swedish  drill  was  completed 
and  an  additional  fireman  was  added  to  the  strength  of  the 
Brigade  to  act  as  physical  drill  instructor.  So  much  inter- 
est was  evinced  in  the  matter  by  the  staff,  that  gymnastic 
apparatus  has  been  provided  at  other  stations  and  a  number 
of  well  attended  classes  has  been  held.  There  is  no  doubt 
that  the  staff  have  felt  the  lack  of  opportunities  for  physical 
training,  especially  in  view  of  the  number  of  hook  ladders 
carried  on  fire  appliances  and  the  extended  use  of  such 
ladders." 

It  seems  needless  to  emphasize  the  importance  of  con- 
stant physical  training  of  firemen,  as,  quite  irrespective  of 
a  man's  muscular  development,  he  quickly  becomes  stiff  and 
slow  of  movement  unless  either  constantly  drilled  or  at  least 
given  the  opportunity  of  obtaining  gymnastic  exercise.  As 
regards  loss  of  life,  during  the  last  year  for  which  par- 
ticulars are  available,  151  deaths  are  recorded,  of  which  no 
fewer  than  sixty-two  were  those  of  children  under  the  age 
of  twelve.  The  causes  of  the  fires  at  which  this  loss 
occurred  include  twelve  cases  of  children  playing  with  fire, 
eleven  from  their  playing  with  matches,  while  thirty-two 
were  attributable  to  clothing  coming  into  contact  with  fire 
or  gas  stoves.  This  infantile  mortality  of  approximately 
forty  per  cent,  of  the  total  death  roll,  though  in  itself  in- 
significant when  compared  with  an  estimated  population 
of  over  four  and  one-half  millions,  certainly  points  to  the 
fact  that  some  sort  of  instruction  anent  the  dangers  of 
fire  could  usefully  be  included  in  the  curriculum  of  Board 
Schools,  as  is  done  in  Germany. 

By  the  Metropolis  Water  Act  of  1871,  it  was  provided 
that  the  water  companies  should  supply,  where  necessary, 
water  for  fire-fighting  free  of  charge,  while  they  should 
also  install  such  plugs  or  hydrants  as  might  be  required 
at  the  expense  of  the  department.  At  present  the  total 
number  of  hydrants  in  the  Metropolitan  area  is  about 
29,000.  Before  1897  all  hydrants  in  the  County  of  London, 
outside  the  City  proper,  were  made  with  one  outlet.  In  that 
year  it  was  suggested  that  new  hydrants  should  be  provided 


FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM      239 

with  two  outlets  when  erected  in  localities  where  the  fire 
risks  were  considerable.  The  disadvantage  of  the  double 
outlet  hydrants  used  in  the  City  itself,  numbering  over  eight 
hundred  and  provided  by  the  City  Corporation  at  its  own 
cost,  was,  that  in  the  event  of  it  being  necessary  to  connect 
a  second  length  of  hose  to  the  hydrant  when  the  first  was 
already  in  use,  the  control  valve  had  to  be  temporarily 
closed.  Apart  from  delay,  which  might  be  fatal,  the  fireman 
operating  the  branch  in  action  was  often  disconcerted  by 
the  stoppage  of  his  water  supply  and  might  conceivably 
find  himself  in  danger  owing  to  this  cause.  To  obviate  this 
the  Fire  Committee  of  the  London  County  Council  decided 
that  the  experiment  should  be  tried  of  placing  two  hydrants 
in  one  pit,  each  being  fitted  with  a  control  valve.  This 
scheme  proved  satisfactory,  though,  on  account  of  the  ex- 
pense involved,  its  introduction  has  not  been  general.  In 
January,  1901,  however,  it  was  determined  that  the  branch 
pipes  connecting  hydrants  to  mains  should  in  every  case 
be  of  five  inches  diameter,  i.  e.,  sufficient  to  supply  double 
hydrants  should  they  be  universally  installed.  Hydrants 
fixed  in  public  thoroughfares  are  tested  by  firemen  every 
two  months,  and  are  also  examined  and  tested  by  inspectors 
under  the  supervision  of  the  Chief  Officer,  and  as  a  result 
of  deficiency  in  water  supply  on  some  occasions  many  fresh 
connections  have  been  made,  and  the  water  companies  in- 
volved have  themselves  contributed  towards  the  expense  of 
laying  new  mains  or  pipes  for  fire  purposes.  The  quantity 
of  water  used  during  1911,  amounted  to  thirty-three  mil- 
lion odd  gallons,  or  not  three  times  as  much  as  was  used 
in  one  fire  in  New  York — the  Equitable.  Two- thirds  of 
this  quantity  was  drawn  direct  from  street  mains,  the  other 
third  being  supplied  by  the  river  Thames  and  canals.  The 
double  pattern  hydrants  deliver  on  an  average  800  English 
gallons  a  minute  which  does  not  seem  excessive  when 
compared  with  the  4,000  gallons  obtainable  from  the  "high 
pressure"  hydrants  in  America. 

The  inspection  of  public  buildings  is  undertaken  by  the 
Brigade    free   of   charge,   though   in  certain   cases   grants 


240  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

in  aid  are  forthcoming  to  provide  for  the  special  staff 
necessary  for  the  operation.  In  theatres,  in  which  public 
performances  are  regularly  given,  there  is  an  official  in- 
spection every  ten  days  to  ensure  that  the  rules  of  the 
Municipality  for  securing  the  safety  of  the  public  are 
enforced.  This  applies,  in  a  modified  form,  to  cinemato- 
graph halls,  temporary  exhibitions  and  bazaars,  and  the 
plans  of  all  new  buildings  requiring  licenses,  and  of  pro- 
posed alterations  to  existing  buildings,  are  referred  to  the 
Chief  Officer  for  examination  and  report. 

Lodging  houses  designed  to  accommodate  more  than 
eighty  persons  are  likewise  under  the  control  of  the  fire 
department,  as  regards  means  of  escape,  etc.,  and  though 
in  the  first  instance  this  is  the  business  of  the  architect  who 
must  conform  to  the  building  rules  of  the  London  County 
Council,  the  responsibility  for  their  efficient  maintenance 
rests  with  the  fire  chief.  In  all,  about  22,000  inspections 
are  made  annually.  Latterly,  the  underground  electric 
railways,  which  honeycomb  London,  have  also  passed  under 
the  supervision  of  the  Chief  Officer  whose  advice  has  been 
followed  regarding  the  fire  safety  of  these  means  of  trans- 
portation. It  is  estimated  that  the  cost  of  this  inspection 
branch  amounts  to  approximately  £4,000  ($20,000)  per 
annum.  No  less  than  two  hundred  and  sixty-five  officers 
and  men  were  injured  in  the  execution  of  their  duty  during 
the  year  1911,  or  one-fifth  of  the  whole  fire  fighting 
strength.  This  is  a  high  percentage  and  bespeaks  devotion 
to  service  which  is  in  every  way  commendable,  and  it  must 
be  remembered  that  it  is  not  always  the  greatest  fire  which 
offers  most  risk  to  life  and  limb.  Thus  it  will  be  seen  that 
London  is  efficiently  guarded  in  its  fire  hazard  and  though, 
perhaps  some  of  the  methods  employed  may  appear  an- 
tiquated and  not  in  accordance  with  the  latest  improvements 
in  fire  control,  yet  after  all  "the  proof  of  the  pudding  is 
in  the  eating,"  and  for  a  city  of  its  population  the  fire  loss 
is  small.  Whether  or  no  the  department  could  successfully 
cope  with  a  great  sweeping  conflagration  in  the  ware- 
house district  is  a  moot  question,  which  most  assuredly  the 


FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM      241 

writer  trusts  will  never  arise  for  solution.  But  there  seems 
no  doubt  that  the  chances  of  a  serious  disaster  from  fire 
in  the  residential  district  are  practically  non-existent,  while 
the  building  regulations  in  force  are  of  so  stringent  a  char- 
acter, that  except  in  the  case  of  panic,  against  which  no  one 
can  guard,  fire  risks  in  theatres  are  reduced  to  a  minimum. 
In  this  connection  a  word  of  praise  must  be  a<ided  for  the 
British  Fire  Prevention  Committee,  a  voluntary  organiza- 
tion which  has  devoted  time,  energy  and  money  towards  the 
solution  of  all  problems  affecting  fire  control,  and  which, 
in  the  most  public-spirited  manner,  has  given  the  results 
arrived  at  "gratis"  to  the  world  at  large. 

In  considering  the  fire  departments  of  the  important 
Boroughs  in  the  United  Kingdom,  one  outstanding  feature 
is  little  short  of  amazing.  This  is  the  small  number  of  the 
personnel,  as  compared  with  the  population  and  the  pe- 
cuniary values  they  are  called  upon  to  protect.  Of  course, 
the  fire  risks  are  appreciably  smaller  in  residential  dis- 
tricts than  they  would  be  in  America,  since  houses  are 
commonly  constructed  of  stone,  are  of  limited  height,  and 
generally  do  not  offer  themselves  an  easy  prey  to  the  flames. 
But  far  otherwise  must  it  be  in  the  congested  warehouse 
section,  and  it  is  really  marvelous  that  disastrous  fires 
are  not  of  more  frequent  occurrence.  It  will  be  of  interest 
to  describe  seriatim  the  brigades  of  four  great  provincial 
cities,  Belfast,  Birmingham,  Glasgow  and  Manchester. 

Belfast,  the  commercial  capital  of  Ireland,  is  a  city  of 
385,000  inhabitants.  During  the  year  1911,  the  number 
of  fires  amounted  to  228,  with  an  estimated  fire  risk  of 
nearly  one  million  pounds  sterling,  the  actual  loss  amounting 
to  fifty  two  thousand  odd  pounds  (two  hundred  and  sixty 
thousand  odd  dollars).  Yet  the  strength  of  the  Brigade 
consists  only  of  seventy-five  firemen,  including  the  superin- 
tendent, assistant  superintendent  and  third  officer.  The 
plant  includes  sixteen  fire  engines,  three  petrol  driven  es- 
capes, one  eighty- foot  extension  ladder  and  various  other 
smaller  apparatus,  all  of  which  seem  to  be  absolutely  up  to 
date.  Though  it  may  be  remarked  that  salvage  work  is 


243  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

accomplished  by  a  petrol  salvage  motor  trap,  yet  in  addi- 
tion, there  are  two  horse  and  one  motor  ambulances,  which 
responded  to  over  three  thousand  calls  in  that  year,  cover- 
ing a  distance  of  10,194  miles  and  occupying  thirty-two 
minutes  per  journey,  i.  e.,  from  the  receipt  of  the  call  until 
their  return  to  the  station.  These  ambulances  are  used 
for  ordinary  accidents.  The  steam  fire  engines  were  only 
used  once,  and  the  motor  fire  pump  only  twice  during  the 
entire  year.  Machines  traveling  to  and  from  fires  aver- 
aged eight  miles  for  each  "turn-out,"  and  were  engaged  for 
1 33^2  hours,  or  an  average  of  thirty-five  minutes  for  each 
fire,  this  calculation  including  the  journey  to  and  from  the 
outbreak.  These  are  remarkable  figures,  and  since,  within 
the  last  ten  years,  there  has  been  practically  no  increase 
in  the  number  of  fires,  Belfast  can  congratulate  itself 
upon  having  one  of  the  most  economical  and  effective  sys- 
tems of  fire  control,  salvage  work  and  ambulance  equipment 
probably  in  the  entire  world.  Birmingham,  according  to  the 
last  census,  is  a  city  with  a  population  of  840,200,  covering 
an  area  of  43,500  acres.  The  fire  department  consists  of 
a  Chief  Officer,  two  senior  subordinates  and  194  rank  and 
file,  which  represents  roughly  one  fireman  to  every  221 
acres  or  to  4,200  persons.  One  thousand  and  forty-eight 
alarms  were  received  during  1912,  of  which  one  hundred 
and  eight  related  to  chimneys  on  fire,  one  hundred  and 
twenty-six  were  false  and  six  were  "malicious." 
The  estimated  value  of  the  property  at  risk  was 
over  three  and  a  half  million  pounds,  the  actual 
loss  approximating  £81,000  ($405,000).  On  an  av- 
erage, these  alarms  occupied  only  thirty-seven  min- 
utes each,  while  on  twenty-eight  days  no  calls  were  re- 
ceived, on  sixty-seven  days  only  one,  on  seventy-five  days 
two,  on  twenty-four  days  six,  on  two  days  eight,  and  on 
one  day  eleven,  these  with  some  forty  stations  and  nine 
thousand  hydrants.  The  police  department  house  some  of 
the  apparatus  in  their  quarters.  Amongst  the  most  im- 
portant appliances  may  be  noticed  six  motor  turbine  pumps 
and  escapes,  twelve  steam  fire  engines,  one  water  tower — 


FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM      243 

a  unique  feature  in  English  fire  practice — three  chemical 
engines  and  twenty-one  extension  ladders.  Like  Belfast, 
there  is  also  an  ambulance  corps,  manning  no  less  than 
eleven  ambulances,  while  amongst  minor  apparatus  may 
be  noticed  nine  smoke  helmets  of  the  latest  oxygen  battery 
type.  It  is  worthy  of  note  that  every  man  in  the  Brigade 
possesses  a  first-aid  certificate  for  ambulance  work.  The 
Chief  Officer  of  the  department  receives  £400  ($2,000) 
per  annum,  while  ordinary  firemen  are  paid  from  24/-  ($6) 
to  3 1/-  ($7.75)  per  week.  All  ranks  receive  free  quarters, 
light  and  uniform,  eight  pence  per  week  boot  allowance 
and  six  pence  (twelve  cents)  washing.  Annual  leave  is 
granted  to  the  extent  of  eight  days  for  a  fireman,  with  an 
addition  of  sixty  hours  a  month  taken  in  two  periods  of 
twenty-four  hours  and  two  of  six.  All  places  of  amuse- 
ment are  inspected  by  the  department,  while  public  and 
other  buildings  under  the  direct  supervision  of  the  Brigade, 
as  regards  fire  risk,  pay  a  small  annual  charge,  the  proceeds 
of  which  are  devoted  to  the  recreation  and  superannuation 
funds.  This  again  constitutes  a  remarkable  record  for 
a  small,  though  excellently  equipped  department. 

Glasgow,  which  since  the  commencement  of  1912,  in- 
cludes Govan  and  Partick,  has  a  Brigade  the  authorized 
strength  of  which  is  195  and  is  at  present  fifteen  short  of 
this  number.  During  1912,  engines  and  firemen  operated 
at  526  fires,  while  in  no  cases  the  outbreaks  were  so 
trifling  that  they  were  suppressed  with  hand  pumps.  The 
estimated  loss  amounted  to  £150,000  ($750,000).  It  is 
noteworthy  that  fires  reported  as  due  to  defective  building 
construction  amounted  to  202,  or  over  thirty-one  per  cent. 
There  are  eleven  stations,  housing  one  motor  extension  lad- 
der, sixteen  motor  pumps,  eight  steam  fire  engines,  and  two 
motor  first-aid  traps.  In  the  entire  department  there  are 
only  two  horses,  which  is  a  sufficient  indication  that  with 
true  Scottish  acumen  motor  propelled  vehicles  have  been 
found  cheaper  and  more  effective.  Sic  transit  gloria  equi. 
Four  first-aid  motor  machines  are  in  course  of  construction, 
each  being  designed  to  carry  one  officer,  twelve  men,  two 


244  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

thousand  yards  of  hose,  one  thirty-foot  extension  ladder, 
an  ambulance  box,  tools,  and  other  necessary  gear.  When 
fully  laden,  these  motors  will  weigh  about  fifty- five  hundred 
pounds,  with  a  length  of  nineteen  feet  on  an  eleven- foot 
wheelbase.  The  number  of  malicious  alarms  was  peculiar- 
ly high,  amounting  to  no  less  than  fifty-nine,  with  only 
six  convictions  for  the  same.  Attendance  at  fires  under 
certain  conditions  must  be  paid  for,  and  the  income  from 
this  source  amounted  to  nearly  £4,000  ($20,000),  while 
listed  amongst  "special  services  rendered"  are  the  two 
following  interesting  items ;  "entering  houses  for  locked-out 
tenants,"  120  occasions,  and  "searching  the  roof  of  a  build- 
ing for  thieves,"  once.  Without  wishing  in  the  least  to  be 
ribald,  the  writer  cannot  help  wondering  why  the  duty  of 
assisting  burgesses  of  Glasgow,  who  had  either  forgotten 
their  latch-keys  or,  perhaps — such  things  do  happen — had 
been  locked  out  on  purpose,  should  have  been  delegated  to 
members  of  the  fire  brigade ! !  The  worst  outbreak  of  the 
year  was  that  caused  through  the  ignition  of  a  cinemato- 
graph film,  while  in  process  of  manufacture.  The  fire  was 
under  control  within  half  an  hour,  but  not  before  damage 
to  the  extent  of  £5,000  ($25,000)  had  been  done.  This 
led  to  an  inquiry  into  the  whole  subject  and  it  was  found 
that  in  one  establishment  the  basement  of  which  was 
heavily  stocked  with  this  inflammable  material,  the  upper 
stories  immediately  above  were  utilized  as  an  hotel.  It  is 
hardly  necessary  to  dilate  upon  what  would  have  occurred 
to  the  guests  had  the  fire  broken  out.  This  incident  is  men- 
tioned since,  no  matter  how  well  a  building  may  be  con- 
structed, danger  of  this  sort  cannot  be  invited  with  im- 
punity, especially  when  the  personal  safety  and  property 
of  785,000  people  rest  upon  180  firemen. 

The  report  of  the  Manchester  Fire  Brigade  is  again  re- 
markable for  its  brevity  and  for  the  fact  that  the  author- 
ized strength  of  the  force  is  only  130,  including  officers, 
for  a  city  of  715,000  inhabitants.  All  the  world  knows  that 
within  this  area  are  to  be  found  some  of  the  greatest  cotton 
spinning  factories  extant,  and  to  the  outsider  it  certainly 


FIRE-FIGHTING  IN  THE  UNITED  KINGDOM      245 

would  appear  as  though  the  fire-fighting  force  could  not 
be  adequate  for  possible  demands.  For  instance,  suppos- 
ing there  were  three  outbreaks  of  even  moderate  size  in 
different  parts  of  the  city  at  the  same  time,  a  perfectly 
normal  contingency  to  contemplate,  how  could  they  be  suc- 
cessfully attacked?  The  524  fires  of  the  year  1912,  repre- 
sented a  property  value  of  over  three  million  pounds  (fif- 
teen million  dollars),  though  the  loss  was  only  £102,000 
($510,000).  The  firemen  were  actively  engaged  during 
the  entire  year  for  320  hours,  35  minutes,  this  including 
false  alarms,  or  under  an  hour  a  day;  while  the  fireboat 
responded  to  seven  calls,  and  was  actively  engaged  on  only 
three  occasions.  Now,  it  may  be  argued  that  the  four 
men  forming  the  crew  of  the  fireboat,  or  the  112  men  rated 
as  "firemen"  in  the  Brigade,  earn  their  pay  with  an  absence 
of  worry  or  anxiety  which  might  be  envied  by  the  layman; 
in  fact,  doubtless  the  rate-payer  reads  the  report  in  question 
and  contemplates  the  pay-roll  dubiously,  revolving  the  while 
in  his  mind  whether  the  total  expenditure  is  justified,  or 
whether,  after  all,  it  is  not  a  piece  of  gross  municipal 
extravagance.  The  answer  is  no  difficult  one  to  give. 
When  a  man  insures  his  life  he  pays  a  premium  for  certain 
benefits  of  which,  perhaps,  he  may  never  taste,  but  on 
that  account  he  does  not  cease  his  payments.  Similarly, 
with  all  outlay  for  all  contingencies,  there  is  no  direct  and 
immediate  return  that  can  be  touched,  handled  and  as- 
sessed at  so  much  material  value.  But  none  the  less  the 
value  is  existent  though  not  perhaps  to  the  extent  demanded 
by  a  captious  rate-payer.  It  is,  in  short,  a  payment  for 
municipal  fire  insurance,  and  though  day  after  day 
and  month  after  month  the  protected  area  may 
jog  along  with  no  serious  outbreak  to  trouble  the 
even  tenor  of  its  way,  the  time  may  come  when 
every  man  and  every  piece  of  apparatus  will  be 
engaged  in  a  life  and  death  struggle  for  mastery. 
And  it  is  precisely  against  that  event  that  the  municipality, 
which  is  far  sighted,  guards.  Hence  it  is  that  with  the 
greatest  of  deference  to  those  concerned  it  does  strike  the 


246  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

writer  with  something  akin  to  amazement  that  such  colossal 
values  should  be  so  lightly  guarded  as  they  apparently  are 
in  English  provincial  towns.  For,  given  the  best  of  ap- 
pliances and  most  skilled  firemen,  what  could  130  men  ac- 
complish against  anything  in  the  nature  of  a  sweeping  con- 
flagration? And  supposing  other  fires  occurred  at  the  same 
time,  it  would  be  a  physical  impossibility  adequately  to  pro- 
tect against  the  one  or  attack  and  quell  the  other. 

As  an  example,  it  is  not  necessary  to  travel  beyond  the 
British  Isles.  In  August,  1911,  there  occurred  a  serious 
fire  in  the  Carlton  Hotel,  London,  a  building  of  moderate 
size  and  certainly  of  no  greater  magnitude  than  some  of 
the  hotels  to  be  found  in  the  towns,  mention  of  which  has 
been  made.  This  outbreak  necessitated  the  employment 
of  twenty-three  steam  and  motor  fire-engines  and  the  at- 
tendance of  two  hundred  and  two  officers  and  men  before 
it  could  be  brought  under  control.  Had  this  occurred  in 
Manchester, — well  it  is  needless  further  to  comment!!! 

This  is  penned  in  no  carping  spirit  and  with  the  knowl- 
edge that  man  for  man  English  fire  departments  are  the 
equal  of  any  in  the  world,  but  they  cannot  accomplish  mir- 
acles, and  rather  are  the  municipalities  to  blame  who,  secure 
in  the  traditions  of  the  past  and  unmindful  of  the  chances 
of  the  future,  are  so  penny  wise  and  pound  foolish  that  they 
are  ready  to  risk  millions  of  pounds  worth  of  property  in 
order  to  escape  an  infinitesimal  addition  to  their  rates. 
Place  the  whole  question  on  a  business  basis,  work  out  the 
value  of  the  fire  insurance  premiums  paid  on  the  property 
within  the  municipal  area  and  compare  the  total  arrived  at 
with  the  total  expenditure  per  annum  on  the  fire  depart- 
ments under  discussion  and  the  result  will  perhaps  surprise 
owners  and  insurance  companies  alike.  Of  course,  it  may  be 
argued,  that  it  belongs  to  the  business  of  the  latter  to  assess 
their  own  risks  and  avoid  the  acceptance  of  policies  in  badly 
protected  areas.  But  that  is  outside  the  main  discussion, 
which  is  concerned  with  the  ethics  of  fire  fighting.  And 
most  assuredly  he  would  be  a  bold  man  who  would  prophesy 
that  fire  would  never  conquer  under  such  conditions. 


CHAPTER  XVII 

THE  NEW  YORK  FIRE  DEPARTMENT 

AN  experience  of  a  quarter  of  a  century  as  an  active 
fire-fighter  has  left  one  indelible  impression  upon  the  brain 
of  the  writer.  It  has  been  his  good  fortune  to  meet  pro- 
fessional colleagues  hailing  from  every  known  part  of  the 
globe,  while,  equally,  he  has  had  abundant  opportunity  to 
inspect  the  fire  departments  of  the  great  American  cities 
as  well  as  those  maintained  by  European  municipalities. 
And  one  point  in  common  he  has  found  them  all  to  possess ; 
namely,  that  they  are  firmly  convinced  that  they  belong 
to  and  represent  the  latest,  the  greatest  and  the  most  up-to- 
date  fire  department  in  the  world.  Which  is  to  be  ex- 
pected; if  a  mother  be  not  proud  of  her  offspring,  who 
should  be? 

And  that  very  enthusiasm  itself  speaks  well  of  the  calling 
as  a  whole,  and  is  a  sufficient  proof  that  its  votaries  bring 
to  bear  upon  their  occupation  all  that  interest  which  is 
necessary  to  make  of  a  chosen  life  work,  a  success.  Hence 
there  is  really  no  need  to  haggle  over  the  respective  merits 
or  otherwise  of  different  fire  departments;  the  main  point 
is,  that  they  are,  one  and  all,  imbued  with  the  same  fight- 
ing spirit,  and,  one  and  all,  are  allied  against  the  same 
common  enemy.  But  in  the  following  pages  will  be  found 
some  description  of  the  New  York  Fire  Department,  and 
the  writer  is  quite  content  to  leave  to  the  verdict  of  others, 
a  decision  as  to  whether  or  no  the  city  is  well  protected 
against  the  fire  fiend.  Since,  however,  his  is  the  honor  of 
being  its  present  Chief,  he  must  be  forgiven  for  stating  at 
once  that  it  is,  as  regards  personnel  and  apparatus,  un- 

247 


248  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

questionably  the  largest  in  the  world.  And  well  it  may 
be,  for  it  is  called  upon  to  guard  property  values  beyond 
conception,  which  from  certain  local  peculiarities  are,  in  a 
measure,  heaped  together  in  a  limited  area,  and  which  offer 
to  the  fire-fighter  problems,  the  solution  of  which  are 
literally  staggering  in  their  immensity. 

It  is  well  nigh  impossible  to  describe  with  pen  and  paper 
for  the  benefit  of  those  who  have  not  seen  it,  exactly  what 
"New  York"  means.  Most  cities  of  renown  convey  cer- 
tain vague  impressions  to  those  who  have  never  visited 
them,  and  only  know  of  them  by  repute  or  from  what  they 
have  read.  Thus  "Rome"  conjures  visions  of  a  bygone  era 
of  imperial  greatness,  manifested  in  wondrous  churches, 
palaces  and  remains  of  historic  interest.  "Paris,"  speaks 
of  a  gay  life,  restaurants,  pretty  women,  a  continual  effer- 
vescence of  amusement  with  the  serious  side  of  life  care- 
fully hidden  away  in  the  background.  "St.  Petersburg" 
visualizes  mentally,  snow-capped  domes  surmounting  fan- 
tastically constructed  cathedrals,  nihilists,  an  eternal  car- 
nival of  disorder  and,  in  the  foreground,  thousands  upon 
thousands  of  gray-coated  soldiery.  As  for  London — with- 
out any  intention  of  hurting  the  feelings  of  the  British — 
fog,  royal  display  and  pomp,  old  and  venerated  buildings, 
art  collections,  military  music  and  suffragettes. 

Now,  each  and  all  of  these  figments  of  the  imagination 
possess  that  grain  of  truth,  which  goes  to  show  that 
years  of  descriptive  writing  have  at  least  brought  home 
to  the  public  mind  some  regularly  formed  impression  anent 
the  places  mentioned.  Now,  far  otherwise  is  it  with  New 
York.  As  the  foreigner,  who  has  never  been  to  America, 
what  are  his  impressions  of  this  great  city?  He  would  prob- 
ably promptly  reply,  "giant  buildings,"  and  then  pause. 
Perhaps,  after  a  moment's  consideration  he  might  add  with 
a  half  apologetic  air,  "and  a  very  expensive  place."  Fur- 
ther than  that  he  could  not  go,  although  viewed  in  certain 
aspects  New  York  has  the  most  strongly  marked  individu- 
ality of  any  city  on  the  face  of  the  globe.  In  the  first  place, 
it  is  as  though  some  giant  contractor  had  constructed  a  play- 


THE  NEW  YORK  FIRE  DEPARTMENT       249 

thing  for  the  gods,  and  had  thrown  vast  piles  of  stone, 
mountains  of  brick,  forests  of  wood  and  lakes  of  mortar  on 
to  the  surface  of  one  small  island  and  had  then  fashioned 
therefrom  buildings.  There  is  no  coordination,  no  attempt 
at  architectural  regularity;  the  wand  of  the  magician  waves 
and  instanter  a  giant  structure  rises  from  nowhere,  and  in 
an  inappreciable  space  of  time  a  new  skyscraper  is  silhouet- 
ted against  the  horizon.  The  sky-line  alone  is  worth  a  trip 
across  the  ocean,  so  replete  is  it  with  fantastic  wizardry 
and  comparable  only  to  the  Organ  Mountains  as  they  loom 
out  of  the  morning  mist  in  the  harbor  of  Rio  de  Janeiro. 

But  these  aspects  are  rather  for  the  brush  of  the  artist; 
there  is  the  other  and  practical  aspect,  which  in  its  way 
is  as  enthralling.  The  population  of  New  York  is  roughly 
five  millions,  and  every  day  in  the  year  one  half  of  that 
number  are  on  the  move.  They  pour  into  a  circumscribed 
area  like  water  into  a  bottle,  and  as  the  number  increases 
so,  like  the  aforesaid  water,  they  mount  higher  and  higher 
as  though  they  would  overflow  into  the  regions  of  the 
upper  air.  The  office  buildings  lead  the  way  in  the  race 
for  height,  and  story  by  story  climb  five,  six,  seven  and 
almost  eight  hundred  feet  in  a  search  after  floor  space. 

There  are  about  one  hundred  and  forty  thousand  separ- 
ate manufacturing  concerns  in  the  city  area  and  many  of 
these  are  housed  in  buildings,  sixteen  and  eighteen  at  a 
time,  a  perfect  miscellany  of  diverse  trades  dealing  in 
every  conceivable  article,  inflammable,  combustible  or  burn- 
able. Hotels  there  are  by  the  thousands,  theatres  literally 
by  the  hundreds,  900  moving  picture  shows,  some  500  miles 
of  docking  and  wharfage  and  innumerable  ships  and  car- 
goes, the  value  of  which  it  is  impossible  to  assess,  and,  in 
any  case,  after  a  certain  point  the  mind  refuses  to  com- 
prehend the  meaning  of  recurring  cyphers.  But  billions 
of  dollars,  millions  of  pounds  sterling,  may  approximate  to 
the  fire  risks  which  have  to  be  covered  by  the  New  York 
Fire  Department.  Multiply  this  enormous  aggregate  of 
values  by  extreme  climatic  conditions  which  in  themselves 
invite  the  attention  of  the  flames,  and  the  magnitude  of 


250  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

the  task  is  enhanced.  Then  again  multiply  the  result  ar- 
rived at  by  the  fact  that  business  with  a  capital  B  is  the 
magnet  which  draws  people  to  this  centre;  the  hunt  after 
that  elusive  dollar  which  absorbs  all  the  nerve  power,  the 
intellect  and  the  interest  of  the  average  individual,  leaving 
him  no  time  for  the  consideration  of  the  casual  outside 
occurrences  of  daily  life,  and  tending  to  make  of  him  a 
machine  rather  than  a  man.  That  is  where  the  careless- 
ness of  the  unit  may  be  expected  to  evidence  itself,  and 
that,  in  itself,  is  one  of  the  most  comprehensive  of  fire 
risks  imaginable.  Thus,  it  will  be  seen  that  the  fire  guard- 
ians of  New  York  have  enough  to  do  in  their  daily  battle 
against  the  fire  fiend,  and  that  personnel  and  equipment 
must  both  be  of  the  best  obtainable  if  the  enemy  is  to  be 
held  effectually  in  check. 

Firstly,  as  regards  personnel,  the  force  is  recruited  from 
the  State  of  New  York,  and,  since  apparatus  without 
skilled  men  to  operate  it  is  useless,  the  place  of  honour  will 
be  given  to  the  means  employed  to  attract  the  best  material 
and  how  the  service  may  be  entered.  The  following  form 
the  basic  qualifications:  "No  person  shall  be  appointed 
to  membership  in  the  fire  department  or  continue  to  hold 
membership  therein,  who  is  not  a  citizen  of  the  United 
States  or  who  has  ever  been  convicted  of  felony;  nor  shall 
any  person  be  appointed  who  cannot  read  and  write  un- 
derstandingly  the  English  language  or  who  shall  not  have 
resided  in  the  State  one  year  immediately  prior  to  his 
appointment,  or  who  is  not  over  the  age  of  twenty-one 
and  at  the  date  of  the  filing  of  his  application  for  civil 
service  examination  was  under  the  age  of  twenty-nine 
years.  Every  member  of  the  uniformed  force  shall  reside 
within  the  limits  of  the  city  of  New  York.  Preliminary 
to  a  permanent  appointment  as  fireman,  there  shall  be  a 
period  of  probation  for  such  time  as  is  fixed  by.  the  civil 
service  rules  and  no  person  shall  receive  a  permanent  ap- 
pointment who  has  not  served  the  required  probationary 
period,  but  the  service  during  probation  shall  be  deemed 
to  be  service  in  the  uniformed  force  if  succeeded  by  a 


THE  NEW  YORK  FIRE  DEPARTMENT       251 

permanent  appointment  and  as  such  shall  be  included  and 
counted  in  determining  eligibility  for  advancement,  promo- 
tion, retirement  and  pension  as  hereinafter  provided."  This 
is  sufficiently  exhaustive  as  showing  the  first  main  essen- 
tials to  be  covered  by  the  applicant  for  fire  service. 

In  addition  to  the  foregoing,  however,  candidates  must 
take  a  civil  service  examination,  the  physical  and  mental 
tests  of  which  are  as  follows :  As  might  be  expected  in  such 
a  calling  as  the  fireman's,  the  physical  test  is  in  itself  severe 
and  searching.  It  may  be  said  to  be  divided  into  two 
parts,  the  medical  and  the  muscular  development  examina- 
tions. These  are  widely  divergent,  as  the  following  shows. 

For  the  former  the  candidate  faces  the  doctors  nude; 
prior  to  his  entry  into  the  examination  room  having  taken 
his  oath  that  he  is  whom  he  states  he  is,  and  that  he  has 
answered  all  questions  which  have  been  put  to  him  truth- 
fully. The  applicant  is  then  carefully  examined  for  such 
defects  as  varicocele,  hydrocele  or  any  other  kindred  blem- 
ishes while,  needless  to  say,  any  signs  of  venereal  disease 
are  met  with  peremptory  rejection.  Should  he  have  any 
obstruction  to  free  breathing,  chronic  catarrh  or  even  of- 
fensive breath  he  may  fail  to  pass.  The  teeth  must  be 
clean,  well  cared  for,  and  at  least  twenty  natural  teeth  must 
be  present.  In  addition,  any  affections  of  the  joints,  sprains 
or  stiffness  of  the  arms  or  legs,  hands  or  feet,  ingrowing 
nails  or  hammer  toes  are  especially  looked  for  and  promptly 
bar  the  applicant,  since  they  would  effectually  prevent  him 
from  performing  his  duties  in  the  manner  demanded. 

It  seems  scarcely  necessary  to  add  that  rupture  also 
receives  particular  attention,  and  any  signs  of  incompletely 
healed  laparotomy  are  noted  against  the  applicant.  Fin- 
ally, the  body  must  be  well  developed  and  nourished,  and 
show  careful  attention  to  personal  cleanliness. 

Following  this,  the  candidate  next  visits  the  first  physical 
examiner,  who  tries  his  sight  and  takes  his  chest  and 
other  measurements.  The  minimum  weight  required  is 
140  Ibs.  on  a  height  of  5  ft.  8  in.  Then  comes  a  stringent 
examination  of  the  heart  and  incidentally,  it  is  surprising, 


252  FIRES    AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

considering  the  age  and  physique  of  the  applicants,  how 
many  have  murmurs  or  some  heart  symptom,  which  in 
themselves  probably  not  serious  for  most  careers,  are  quite 
sufficient  to  prevent  entry  into  the  ranks  of  the  Fire  De- 
partment. This  concludes  what  may  be  called  the  purely 
medical  aspect  of  the  case,  with  the  addition  of  certain 
questions  regarding  past  medical  history,  framed  on  a 
plan  not  unlike  that  drawn  up  by  insurance  companies. 

The  hour  for  the  active  physical  test  has  now  arrived. 
That  it  is  severe  may  be  gathered  from  the  following  par- 
ticulars. Firstly,  the  strength  of  the  upper  arms  is  tested 
by  the  pull-up,  or  "chinning,"  as  it  is  called.  The  candi- 
date is  required  to  hang  in  a  suspended  position  from  the 
rung  of  a  horizontal  ladder  by  his  hands,  and  pull  himself 
up  till  his  chin  is  above  the  rung.  A  limit  of  fourteen 
times  has  been  placed  upon  this  operation,  which  would 
give  a  sufficient  gruelling  to  most  professed  athletes.  Next 
comes  the  "dip,"  or  supporting  the  body  by  arms  on  hori- 
zontal bars  and  then  lowering  till  the  chin  is  level  with 
the  hands.  This  must  not  be  accomplished  more  than  six 
times. 

A  dynamometer  is  used  to  test  the  strength  of  the  fore- 
arm, pectoral  muscles,  joints  of  the  knees,  back  and  legs. 
Considerable  importance  is  attached  to  these  readings.  A 
sixty  pound  dumb-bell  must  also  be  lifted  to  the  shoulder 
and  thence  above  the  shoulder  with  each  hand  in  turn. 
Finally,  the  agility  of  the  candidate  is  tested  in  a  variety 
of  ways,  jumping  being  that  most  usually  employed. 

Now,  it  might  be  imagined  that  the  only  result  of  this 
extreme  physical  trial  would  be  the  elimination  of  all 
except  giants  and  abnormalities,  which,  most  assuredly, 
are  not  wanted.  What  is  required  is  all  round  physical 
excellence,  and  to  this  end  marks  are  given  according  to 
the  stamina  shown  by  the  individual  in  the  different  tests 
and  his  familiarity  with  the  same.  But  the  outstanding 
point  to  be  made  is  that,  obviously  apart  from  being  in 
sound  health,  it  is  not  by  any  means  the  strongest  man 
who  always  makes  the  best  rating.  The  youth  who  has 


THE  NEW  YORK  FIRE  DEPARTMENT       253 

been  gymnastically  inclined  will  be  familiar,  of  course, 
with  such  exercises  as  "chinning"  and  "dipping,"  and  in 
that  way  will  score;  but  it  also  shows  that  he  has  been  in 
the  habit  of  taking  the  best  form  of  exercise  and  this  in 
itself  promises  a  deal.  Mens  sana  in  cor  pore  sano  might 
not  inaptly  be  applied  to  the  department,  since  the  science 
of  fire-fighting  is  a  profession  demanding  brains  as  well 
as  brawn. 

As  has  already  been  stated,  the  mental  examination  is 
reasonable  considering  the  training  which  is  to  follow,  and 
consists  of  a  thorough  knowledge  of  the  three  R's — read- 
ing, writing  and  simple  arithmetic.  These  examinations 
are,  however,  competitive  and  are  rated  on  a  basis  of  50 
to  50,  i.  e.,  half  for  physical  and  half  for  mental.  It  has 
been  the  practice,  during  the  last  few  years,  to  appoint 
from  these  candidates  in  numerical  order,  although  the 
Fire  Commissioner  has  some  discretionary  powers  under 
the  law  and  may  reject  a  certain  percentage  of  the  names 
certified  for  appointment.  Unless  a  candidate  has  devel- 
oped some  serious  defect  between  the  promulgation  of  the 
list  and  the  date  of  appointment,  the  plan  of  accepting  men 
in  numerical  order  is  followed. 

In  order  to  detect  whether  such  defect  exists,  the  appli- 
cant is  thoroughly  examined  by  the  medical  officer  of  the 
Fire  Department  at  the  time  he  is  about  to  be  appointed. 
Should  he  pass  all  tests,  he  is  appointed  on  probation  for 
a  period  of  three  months  and  is  immediately  assigned  to  a 
company. 

It  is  thought  best  to  assign  probationers  to  active  duty 
at  once,  and  in  the  heaviest  and  hardest  districts  of  the 
city.  A  two  years'  service  is  required  in  these  districts 
before  a  fireman  is  permitted  to  transfer  to  a  lighter  one. 
He  is  required  to  attend  daily  between  certain  hours  at 
the  college  training  school  for  probationers,  there  to  under- 
go a  thorough  course  of  instruction  in  the  use  of  scaling 
and  other  ladders  on  a  building  more  than  100  feet  in 
height.  He  is  taught  the  use  of  every  tool  in  the  eight 
branches  of  the  service — hook  and  ladder  and  engine  com- 

• 


254  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

panics,  water  towers,  hose  and  chemical  wagons,  fire  boats 
and  so  forth.  Besides  this  he  is  instructed  in  the  use  and 
making  of  approved  knots,  such  as  the  bowling  knot,  rolling 
hitch,  the  half  hitch  and  others.  Also  he  is  instructed  in 
the  use  of  life  saving  apparatus  and  jumping  nets.  In  addi- 
tion he  must  learn  and  become  proficient  in  sending  and 
receiving  all  fire  alarm  signals. 

In  some  countries  it  is  thought  best  to  instruct  the  men 
before  sending  them  to  companies  for  regular  duty,  and 
even  officers  as  already  stated  in  this  volume  attend  fires 
as  spectators.  To  the  writer,  this  system  does  not  appear 
to  possess  any  advantage.  In  fact,  practical  experience 
has  proved  that  it  is  better  to  throw  the  men  at  once  into 
the  thick  of  the  fight.  If  they  have  any  tendency  to  show 
the  white  feather  this  method  speedily  brings  it  out,  but 
to  the  credit  of  the  New  York  firemen,  be  it  said,  that  in 
more  than  twenty  years,  during  which  time  over  five  thou- 
sand men  have  been  subjected  to  this  ordeal,  not  more 
than  ten  have  jibbed. 

The  reason  why  so  few  are  found  deficient  in  these  tests 
is  simple.  They  are  aware  of  the  conditions  beforehand 
and  this  fact  eliminates  the  cowardly  and  the  timid.  Once 
appointed  to  membership  in  the  uniformed  force,  a  young 
man  can  reach  the  highest  position  in  the  department,  al- 
ways, however,  subject  to  competitive  examinations.  In 
these  examinations  record  and  seniority  count  fifty  per 
cent.,  and  mental  qualifications  the  same.  As  regards  the 
former  rank  takes  precedence  of  service.  A  mark  of  80 
per  cent,  is  given  for  the  first  six  months  in  a  grade,  and 
one  half  of  one  per  cent,  for  each  six  months  thereafter 
up  to  eight  years,  when  a  full  mark  is  given.  This  brings 
the  rating  to  96  per  cent.,  the  additional  4  points  being  re- 
served for  merit  marks  (class  A  or  i),  and  a  medal  re- 
ceiving three  points  (class  B  or  2),  equalling  2  points,  and 
class  C  or  3,  equalling  i  point).  These  points  are  subject 
to  change  by  the  municipal  civil  service  with  the  consent 
of  the  Mayor  and  State  Civil  Service  Board. 

The  total  strength  of  the  uniformed  force  of  the  De- 


THE  NEW  YORK  FIRE  DEPARTMENT       255 

partmerat  amounts  to  4,995  men  of  all  ranks,  including, 
besides  the  Chief,  15  Deputy  and  47  Battalion  Chiefs,  n 
medical  officers,  298  captains,  413  lieutenants,  20  pilots, 
496  engineers,  6  marine  engineers,  and  3,687  firemen  of  all 
grades.  There  are,  in  addition,  i  Chief  of  Construction 
and  Repairs,  2  Roman  Catholic  and  2  Episcopalian  Chap- 
lains. 

Upon  being  appointed  to  4th  grade  firemen  from  proba- 
tioners, men  receive  $1,000  per  annum,  being  a  year  later 
advanced  by  law  to  the  3rd  grade,  with  the  same  salary, 
and  thereafter,  by  law  to  the  2nd  grade,  with  $1,200  a 
year,  and  thence  to  the  1st  grade,  then  receiving  a  salary 
of  $1,400  a  year.  Thenceforth  the  progress  of  the  in- 
dividual is  strictly  dependent  upon  his  success  in  competi- 
tive examinations.  Thus,  by  taking  practical  tests,  he  may 
qualify  as  an  engineer,  with  a  salary  of  $1,600  a  year. 

A  fire  engine  is  taken  to  the  water  front  and  placed  at 
the  dock  drafting  water.  Candidates  are  required  to 
operate  the  engine  in  the  presence  of  engineers  represent- 
ing the  Civil  Service,  and  are  rated  up  to  50  per  cent., 
according  to  the  ability  shown.  A  mark  of  70  is  required 
to  pass  this  test.  The  mental  test  which  follows  is  a  writ- 
ten examination  counting  50  per  cent.,  a  passing  mark  of 
70  per  cent,  being  required.  When  both  tests  are  combined 
the  candidate  must  have  at  least  80  per  cent,  to  entitle  him 
to  be  on  the  eligible  list. 

Or,  again,  he  may  follow  the  main  stream  of  promotion, 
becoming  first  a  lieutenant,  with  $2,100  a  year,  and  after 
six  months  may  rise  to  be  a  captain,  with  a  salary  of 
$2,500  a  year.  With  six  months'  service  to  his  credit  in 
this  grade,  he  is  eligible  as  Chief  of  Battalion,  in  which 
position  he  takes  charge  of  six  or  seven  companies,  and 
receives  a  salary  of  $3,300  per  annum.  Ranking  with  the 
latter  are  Doctors,  Chaplains  and  the  Chief  of  Construc- 
tion and  Repairs.  Incidentally,  it  may  be  of  interest  to 
note  that  the  Chaplains  are  provided  with  a  departmental 
horse  and  buggy,  for  the  purpose  of  attending  fires,  at 
which  their  services  on  occasion  are  greatly  appreciated. 


256  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

The  next  step  of  promotion  is  to  that  of  Deputy  Chief 
of  Department,  with  whom  rank  the  two  veterinary  officers 
and  the  Chief  Medical  officer.  The  Deputy  Chief  of  De- 
partment in  charge  of  the  Boroughs  of  Brooklyn  and 
Queens,  owing  to  his  greater  responsibilities,  receives  a 
salary  of  $7,500,  the  Chief  receiving  $10,000. 

Since  the  vacancies  in  each  rank  are  limited,  a  list  of 
candidates  eligible  for  promotion  is  drawn  up  and  remains 
in  force  from  one  to  four  years,  when  the  list  is  closed. 
This  is  to  enable  the  younger  men  to  have  their  chance  and 
to  prevent  their  promotion  being  blocked  indefinitely. 

Without  going  too  deeply  into  the  subject  of  examina- 
tions, it  may  be  not  without  interest  to  give  two  or  three 
specimen  questions  taken  from  the  examination  papers  for 
promotion  to  lieutenant,  which  will  be  sufficient  evidence 
of  the  thoroughness  and  searching  nature  of  the  examina- 
tion, i.  Assume  that  a  fire  has  broken  out  on  the  I2th 
floor  in  the  rear  of  a  modern  20  story  fireproof  building, 
100  feet  deep,  elevators  30  feet  from  the  front.  The  room 
where  the  fire  started  is  30  by  50  feet,  and  is  filled  with  a 
number  of  old  desks,  rugs,  partitions  and  other  furni- 
ture of  a  highly  inflammable  nature.  Intense  heat  has 
developed  before  the  firemen  reach  the  scene,  and  the 
fire  has  worked  its  way  into  adjoining  offices  on  the  same 
floor,  (a)  What  are  the  special  dangers  to  be  apprehended 
from  such  a  fire?  (b)  What  special  precautions  would 
you  take  to  avoid  loss  of  life?  2.  In  answering  the  follow- 
ing, candidates  will  show  the  methods  used  in  arriving  at 
the  answer  given.  There  is  a  large  fire  in  a  building  100 
feet  high  from  the  curb  to  the  cornice.  The  sidewalk  is 
ten  feet  wide  and  the  street  from  curb  to  curb  is  thirty 
feet  wide.  A  pipe-holder  is  placed  against  curb  on  the 
opposite  side  from  the  fire.  You  are  required  to  deliver  an 
effective  stream  of  water  to  the  top  floor.  You  are  using 
300  feet  of  three-inch  hose  with  a  i^-inch  nozzle.  What 
is  the  approximate  distance  from  the  nozzle  at  the  curb  to 
the  top  story  windows,  allowing  ten  feet  to  a  story,  what 
pressure  would  you  require  on  the  nozzle,  how  many  gal- 


COMBINATION   CHEMICAL  AND   HOSE    WAGON. 


THE  NEW  YORK  FIRE  DEPARTMENT       257 

Ions  of  water  would  the  nozzle  discharge  per  minute  and 
what  would  be  the  required  pressure  on  the  engine  or  hy- 
drant to  maintain  this  discharge?  3.  What  is  the  duty  of 
the  commanding  officers  upon  arriving  at  fires  where  the 
buildings  have  automatic  sprinkler  equipments?  (b)  After 
the  first  line  of  hose  has  been  stretched  in  at  a  fire  by  an 
engine  company  and  a  second  line  of  hose  is  required,  what 
do  the  rules  demand  commanding  officers  to  do? 

It  goes  without  saying  that  such  technical  knowledge 
cannot  altogether  be  acquired  by  practice  alone.  There 
must  be  a  sound  theoretical  training  to  amplify  the  latter, 
and  to  this  end  the  Fire  College  was  instituted  in  the  year 
1911.  It  may  not  inaptly  be  compared  with  the  Staff  Col- 
lege of  an  army,  since  all  those  joining  it  must  be  officers 
who  wish  to  qualify  along  certain  highly  specialized  lines. 
But  the  simplest  method  whereby  an  idea  may  be  gained 
of  its  scope  is  to  quote  from  the  words  of  its  charter. 
"To  disseminate  knowledge  of  fire-fighting,  to  establish  and 
maintain  the  highest  professional  standards  and  to  afford  to 
men  starting  in  the  profession  of  fire-fighting  the  experi- 
ence of  men  who  have  devoted  their  lives  to  the  pro- 
fession. " 

Included  in  the  courses  are :  General  fire-fighting,  use 
of  apparatus  and  tools,  engines  and  boilers,  high  pressure 
system,  marine  fires,  care  of  horses  and  hose,  high  tension 
electric  currents,  combustibles  and  explosives,  gasoline 
and  motors,  fire  alarm  telegraph,  auxiliary  fire  appliances, 
first  aid  to  the  injured,  discipline  and  administration.  In- 
struction is  given  by  a  detail  of  officers,  but  special  lec- 
tures are  delivered  by  distinguished  professors  from  New 
York  colleges,  while  the  President  is  always  the  Chief  of 
the  Department. 

As  a  company  is  the  unit  of  action  at  a  fire,  and  as  col- 
lective work  is  of  more  value  on  these  occasions  even  than 
in  war,  the  Company  School  has  been  made  a  feature  of 
the  college  work.  From  this  it  must  not  be  gathered  that 
the  intelligence  of  the  individual  is  not  taken  into  account. 
Many  times  a  man  is  thrown  upon  his  own  resources 


258  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

where  he  can  neither  see  nor  hear  the  signals  of  his  super- 
iors and  care  is  taken  in  his  training  that  his  individuality 
and  initiative  shall  not  be  repressed.  The  school  is  attend- 
ed by  companies,  and  complicated  evolutions  are  per- 
formed. Each  year  a  competitive  drill  is  given,  which  is 
required  to  be  accomplished  within  a  specified  time,  and  the 
men  of  the  company  most  successful  in  time  and  form 
receive  a  college  medal,  while  the  Captain  is  given  a  spe- 
cial medal  for  the  best  drilled  and  most  effective  com- 
pany. 

Some  idea  of  the  evolutions  in  one  of  the  recent  tests 
can  be  gleaned  from  the  following:  There  were  twenty 
tests,  which  took  place  on  and  in  a  building  100  feet  in 
height  and  of  nine  stories,  (a)  Stretch  a  three-inch  line 
from  high  pressure  hydrant.  Connect  to  stand-pipe  floor 
valve  inside  of  the  building;  the  outside  connection  is  out 
of  order.  Winning  time  41  seconds,  (b)  Raise  and  op- 
erate an  aerial  ladder.  Winning  time  50  seconds,  (c) 
Hoist  a  line  to  the  roof  from  the  outside  of  the  building. 
Make  the  line  fast  under  the  cornice  and  on  the  roof  with 
approved  knots.  Winning  time  i  minute  13  seconds. 
From  these  figures  it  can  be  gauged  that  the  New  York 
fireman  is  second  to  none  in  speed  of  operating  appa- 
ratus. 

There  is  in  addition  a  large  civil  department,  which  is 
responsible  for  such  auxiliary  bureaux  as  the  Fire  Alarm 
Telegraph  Bureau,  which  totals  133  men,  including  30  tele- 
graph operators,  14  battery  men  and  32  linesmen;  the  Fire 
Prevention  Bureau  which  is  charged  with  the  making  of 
inspections,  the  cleaning  away  of  rubbish,  etc.,  and  in- 
cludes within  its  scope  the  division  of  the  Fire  Marshal, 
who  is  responsible  for  inquiring  into  the  causes  of  fires 
and  for  procuring  evidence  in  cases  of  arson.  In  addi- 
tion, there  is  a  large  Bureau  of  Repairs  and  Supplies, 
which  totals  no  less  than  251  employees,  ranging  from 
clerks  and  stenographers  to  painters  and  even  a  sail- 
maker. 

The  administrative  head  of  this  vast  organization  is  the 


THE  NEW  YORK  FIRE  DEPARTMENT       259 

Fire  Commissioner,  who  is  a  nominee  of,  and  appointed 
by,  the  mayor.  In  fact  he  may  not  inaptly  be  compared 
with  the  departmental  secretaries  of  any  national  adminis- 
tration; that  is  to  say,  with  a  change  of  municipal  gov- 
ernment, ipso  facto,  he  vacates  his  position. 

Quarters  are  provided  for  all  members  of  the  uniformed 
force,  at  the  stations  to  which  they  are  attached,  4  hours 
daily  being  allowed  for  meals.  In  addition,  every  fire- 
man is  entitled  to  14  consecutive  days'  vacation  leave  in 
the  year,  together  with  24  hours  each  fifth  day,  while 
company  commanders  have  it  in  their  power  to  grant  extra 
leave  of  12  hours  4  times  each  month  should  the  exi- 
gencies of  the  service  permit. 

The  regulations  regarding  pensions  are  both  compre- 
hensive and  generous.  Any  officer  or  member  of  the  uni- 
formed force  who  may,  upon  an  examination  by  medical 
officers,  be  found  to  be  disqualified,  physically  or  mentally, 
from  the  performance  of  his  duties,  shall  be  retired  from 
the  service  and  shall  receive  an  annual  allowance  as  pen- 
sion in  case  of  total  disqualification  or  as  compensation  for 
limited  service  in  case  of  partial  disability.  In  case  of 
total  and  permanent  disability  caused  or  induced  by  the 
actual  performance  of  the  duties  of  his  position,  or  which 
may  occur  after  ten  years'  active  and  continuous  service, 
the  amount  of  annual  pension  allowed  shall  be  one-half  of 
the  yearly  compensation  given  as  salary  at  the  date  of  his 
retirement  from  the  service,  or  such  less  sum  in  propor- 
tion to  the  number  so  retired  as  the  condition  of  the  fund 
will  warrant.  This  fund  is  formed  of  certain  revenues 
allocated  for  this  purpose  and  any  deficit  is  supplied  by 
an  appropriation  from  the  city.  In  any  case,  widows  and 
children  of  men  killed  in  the  execution  of  their  duties  are 
cared  for,  and  members  wishing  to  retire  after  a  period  of 
20  years'  service,  receive  a  pension  equal  to  one-half  of 
their  salary. 

The  City  of  New  York  is  divided  into  five  Boroughs, 
Manhattan,  the  Bronx,  Richmond,  Brooklyn  and  Queens, 
the  two  former  being  separated  from  the  third  by  the  bay, 


260  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

and  from  the  fourth  and  fifth  by  the  East  river.  For 
fire  protection  the  Department  consists  of  298  companies 
equipped  with  877  pieces  of  apparatus,  including  engines, 
hose  wagons,  hook  and  ladder  trucks,  fire  boats,  search 
light  engines,  water  towers,  etc.  Motorization  of  all  ap- 
paratus is  proceeding  rapidly  and  by  the  end  of  1914  the 
horse  will  be  practically  superseded. 

Of  the  operations  of  the  Department,  as  a  whole,  some 
idea  may  be  gleaned  from  the  fact  that  between  January 
9th  and  March  ist,  1912,  New  York  literally  burned  day 
and  night.  One  period  of  24  hours  in  February  of  that 
year  witnessed  a  hundred  calls.  This  tremendous  activity 
on  the  part  of  the  fire  fiend  was  due  to  some  extent  to 
the  extreme  cold,  the  thermometer  registering  zero  prac- 
tically the  entire  time,  but,  judging  from  the  revelations 
recently  made,  the  firebug  played  no  inconspicuous  part 
in  this  state  of  affairs. 

It  is  the  custom  of  the  New  York  Fire  Department  never 
to  leave  a  fire  station  uncovered,  and,  in  case  of  outbreaks 
of  any  magnitude,  apparatus  from  distant  stations  takes 
up  its  position  in  the  station  vacated.  This  system  will  be 
understood  by  an  examination  of  the  accompanying  card. 
All  companies  in  the  first  horizontal  line  respond  on  the 
first  alarm,  i.  e.,  when  the  street  alarm  is  pulled  by  a  citi- 
zen or  a  policeman.  All  companies  and  officers  on  the  sec- 
ond line  respond  on  the  second  alarm,  which  is  transmitted 
in  the  following  manner.  Should  the  chief  in  charge  at  a 
fire  find  the  outbreak  to  be  beyond  the  control  of  the  ap- 
paratus of  the  first  assignment,  he  orders  the  transmission 
of  a  second  or  third  alarm.  This  is  always  done  by  an 
officer  or  by  an  aide  to  the  chief  officer  for,  though  the 
alarm  box  may  be  opened  and  pulled  by  a  citizen,  in  order 
to  send  additional  calls,  an  inner  door  must  be  opened  to 
which  none  but  officers  or  aides  have  access. 

The  mechanism  within  this  door  resembles  the  appa- 
ratus in  use  in  a  telegraph  office,  and  the  officer  will  send 
in  his  call  by  tapping  2-2-279;  meaning  a  second  alarm  at 
station  279.  A  third,  fourth  or  fifth  alarm  is  sent  in  the 


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THE  NEW  YORK  FIRE  DEPARTMENT       261 

same  manner,  merely  changing  2-2  into  3-3  and  so  on.  It 
will  be  seen  by  the  card  that,  on  the  third  alarm,  in  this 
instance  engine  company  16  takes  the  places  of  engine  com- 
pany 17  in  the  latter's  station,  and  engine  company  26  fills 
up  the  gap  left  by  engine  company  14.  Similar  changes 
occur  on  the  fifth  alarm,  and  hook  and  ladder  company 
21  "covers  in"  for  hook  and  ladder  company  3. 

If  the  fire  happened  to  be  of  such  magnitude  as  to  de- 
mand an  even  greater  force  than  would  respond  on  the 
fifth  alarm,  distant  companies  in  the  same  Borough  can 
be  summoned  by  sending  what  is  known  as  a  simultaneous 
call,  or  what  firemen  term  "the  two  nines."  The  call  is, 
to  give  an  example,  9-9-279-3-3-582,  which  means  that  all 
companies  due  on  the  third  alarm  at  signal  box  582,  would 
immediately  respond  with  all  apparatus  to  signal  box  279. 
In  lieu  of  this  can  be  sent  the  borough  call,  which  has 
exactly  the  same  effect,  but  the  signal  is  varied  to  denote 
the  borough  from  which  the  apparatus  is  required,  which, 
in  the  case  of  the  Equitable  fire,  was  Brooklyn.  In  this 
instance  it  will  be  readily  understood  that  there  was  no 
object  in  sending  five  miles  north  on  Manhattan  Island  for 
companies,  when  the  same  force  was  just  one  mile  away 
across  the  Brooklyn  Bridge.  Should  the  borough  call  be 
used,  it  would  be  7-7-279-3-3-394,  indicating  that  the  com- 
panies assigned  on  the  third  alarm  at  station  394  Borough 
of  Brooklyn,  would  immediately  respond  to  station  279 
Borough  of  Manhattan.  6-6  denotes  Manhattan,  7-7  de- 
notes Brooklyn  and  8-8  Richmond. 

There  are  3,176  street  fire  alarm  boxes  and,  roughly, 
°ver  5>5°°  special  and  automatic  signal  boxes  located  in 
factories,  public  buildings,  theatres,  etc.,  and  approximately 
1,969  miles  of  underground  conductors,  while,  by  the  end 
of  1914,  the  2,530  miles  of  overhead  cables  will  also  be 
laid  in  the  former  way.  The  fire  alarm  stations  are  situ- 
ated as  far  distant  from  the  scene  of  any  possible  out- 
break as  is  practicable,  those  at  present  in  the  course  of 
construction  being  located  in  the  public  parks  of  the  vari- 
ous boroughs.  The  Department  is  housed  in  326  build- 


262  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

ings,  and  every  year  sees  an  addition  to  their  number. 
In  1912  there  were  15,633  fires  as  against  13,868  in  the 
previous  year,  the  total  fire  loss  for  the  former  year  being 
$9,069,580,  as  against  $12,470,806  for  the  latter. 

Occasionally,  in  the  preceding  pages,  the  reader  may 
have  thought  that  the  writer  was  complaining  of  the  posi- 
tion held  by  the  firemen  in  the  public  esteem.  Certainly  it 
is  true  that  the  profession  is  of  modern  growth  and,  as 
such,  has  not  behind  it  those  centuries  of  glorious  record 
which  make  citizens  of  every  nation  proud  of  their  army 
and  navy.  But  inasmuch  as  New  York  possesses  the  larg- 
est fire  department  in  the  world,  and  inasmuch  as  its  uni- 
formed force  is  called  upon  to  combat  a  greater  fire  risk 
than  elsewhere  to  be  found,  then  most  assuredly  is  this  fact 
recognized  by  its  inhabitants.  It  is  no  exaggeration  to  say 
that  no  force  in  the  United  States,  federal,  state  or  mu- 
nicipal, stands  in  more  sympathetic  relationship  to  the 
public.  An  English  friend  of  the  writer's,  who  knew  the 
Department  well,  was  asked  what  he  thought  of  it  as  a 
whole.  He  replied : 

"Well,  the  greatest  compliment  I  can  pay  is  to  put 
them  on  the  same  plane  with  the  London  police,  whom  I 
consider  the  most  efficient,  best  mannered  and  withal  the 
kindliest  force  it  is  possible  to  imagine." 

It  goes  without  saying  that  the  writer  is  proud  of  his 
command,  proud  of  their  actions,  which  are  engraved  in 
the  hearts  of  the  people,  and  proud  to  think  that  Provi- 
dence has  permitted  him  to  be  their  Chief. 


CHAPTER  XVIII 

SEAPORT  PROBLEMS 

THE  problems  confronting  fire  departments  in  seaport 
towns  in  America  are  of  a  nature  so  widely  divergent  from 
those  needing  solution  in  Europe,  that  a  few  explanatory 
words  are  rendered  necessary.  As  a  general  rule,  tidal 
influences  and  depth  of  water  play  so  important  a  part  in 
the  latter  that  it  has  been  obligatory  to  construct  docks 
which  shall  always  be  possessed  of  a  certain  depth  of  water. 
There  is  no  need  to  labour  the  obvious  point,  that  this  has 
entailed  harbour  construction  on  a  gigantic  scale,  involving 
in  many  cases  the  expenditure  of  millions  of  money.  In 
this  respect  the  Atlantic  seaboard  of  the  United  States  has 
been  peculiarly  fortunate,  and  it  is  possible,  with  rare  ex- 
ceptions, to  berth  the  average  steamer  alongside  a  wharf 
projecting  directly  from  the  shores  of  the  river,  bay  or 
estuary.  This,  of  course,  spells  cheapness,  celerity  in  deal- 
ing with  cargo  and  a  certain  amount  of  convenience  for 
passengers  in  transit.  But,  on  the  other  hand,  it  has  tended 
most  distinctly  to  increase  fire  risks.  In  the  designing  and 
building  of  docks  the  greatest  of  care  and  forethought  is 
naturally  exercised  in  the  safeguarding  of  buildings  from 
fire,  if  for  no  other  reason  than  the  difficulty  that  must  be 
experienced  in  successfully  mastering  outbreaks  in  con- 
gested areas,  dependent  upon  their  ingress  and  egress  for 
the  state  of  the  tide. 

Shallow  draught  fire  floats  have  been  constructed 
for  this  special  purpose,  but  their  capacity  and  ra- 
dius of  action  are  obviously  limited,  and  hence  any  com- 
parison between  American  practice  and  European  methods 

263 


264  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

is  out  of  the  question.  The  sheds,  or  wharves,  common  to 
America,  form  about  the  most  dangerous  structures  of  their 
kind  in  existence.  Built  on  wooden  piles,  with  wooden 
superstructures,  they  are  comparable  to  nothing  but  hori- 
zontal flues,  through  which  flames  rush  with  a  lightning- 
like  rapidity,  rendering  abortive  any  efforts  on  the  part  of 
the  fire  department,  unless  the  greatest  promptitude  is 
shown  by  all  concerned,  and  demanding  the  use  of  fireboats 
with  specially  designed  and  extraordinarily  powerful  equip- 
ment. Fill  these  sheds  with  every  sort  of  combustible 
material  imaginable;  hogsheads  of  resin,  bales  of  cotton, 
crated  furniture,  barrels  of  pitch,  stacks  of  dry  goods,  and 
such  unconsidered  trifles  as  a  few  boxes  of  celluloid  toys 
and  novelties,  and  can  the  mind  of  man  conceive  a  collec- 
tion of  heterogeneous  merchandise  more  calculated  to  pro- 
vide the  wherewithal  for  a  conflagration  and  matter  enough 
to  assuage  the  thirsty  pens  of  all  the  newspaper  reporters 
in  the  town?  Yet  this  represents  an  every  day  condition 
in  an  American  port,  and  it  is  perforce  necessary,  not 
only  to  guard  this  property  but  to  calculate  the  even  more 
important  risk,  namely,  should  fire  occur,  the  danger  of  its 
spreading  to  adjacent  dwellings.  Hence,  even  the  inex- 
perienced lay  mind  can  easily  grasp  the  vital  significance 
of  fire  prevention  under  such  circumstances.  But  inci- 
dentally, there  is  yet  a  further  consideration  demanding  at- 
tention, the  possibility  of  a  fire  occurring  in  a  vessel  moored 
alongside  one  of  these  piers.  Fire  risks  on  shipboard  are 
appreciably  greater  in  harbour  than  at  sea.  Discipline  is  re- 
laxed and  sailors  and  stevedores  are  human.  After  a  hard 
morning's  work  a  pipe  of  tobacco  or  a  cigarette  is  a  wel- 
come solace  to  the  most  ascetic  of  individuals,  and  a 
carelessly  thrown  match,  or  the  residue  of  a  finished  pipe 
is  all  that  is  necessary  to  start  a  blaze,  which  shall  in  one 
fell  swoop  destroy  ship,  cargo,  wharf  and  men.  In  addi- 
tion, though  this  may  be  scarcely  credited,  merchandise, 
particularly  cotton,'  is  often  on  fire  before  it  is  loaded,  in 
which  case  it  is  absolutely  a  matter  of  luck  where  the  out- 
break occurs.  Therefore,  it  behoves  wharf  masters  and 


OIL  FIRE. 


SEAPORT   PROBLEMS  265 

captains  to  exercise  the  most  stringent  supervision  over  the 
goods  they  are  handling.  These  are  some  of  the  com- 
plexities which  face  the  master  mind  of  the  fire  depart- 
ment, and  be  it  remembered  that  no  matter  whose  the  in- 
itial responsibility,  if  a  fire  gets  out  of  hand,  criticism, 
and  perhaps  blame,  will  be  apportioned  liberally  to  the  de- 
partment whose  services  have  been  requisitioned  to  over- 
come the  errors  and  carelessness  of  others. 

To  meet  such  contingencies  the  first  essential  is  a  flotilla 
of  well  equipped  fire-boats,  numerically  sufficient  for  the 
demands  of  the  harbour  they  are  to  defend.  Much  depends 
upon  the  architect  chosen  to  design  them,  and  he  should 
be  given  a  free  hand  and  be  untrammeled  by  petty  re- 
strictions, though  needless  to  add,  he  should  be  a  master 
of  his  craft,  while  too  much  emphasis  cannot  be  placed 
upon  the  prohibition  of  untried  innovations.  These  latter 
may  result  in  serious  loss  of  life  and  property.  It  is  com- 
monly held  that  fire-boats  should  be  of  the  twin-screw 
type ;  this,  as  rendering  them  more  handy  for  manceuvering 
in  narrow  crowded  channels.  But  the  twin-screw  boat  is 
more  expensive  to  maintain  and  operate,  and  since  econ- 
omy is  the  watchword  of  municipalities,  it  has  been  found 
expedient  to  evolve  a  design,  the  turning  circle  of  which 
with  a  single  screw  approximates  to  that  obtained  by  two 
screws.  Shorn  of  scientific  formulae,  this  consists  in  con- 
structing the  keel  of  the  vessel  from  the  midship  section 
aft  along  a  rising  gradient,  thus  bringing  the  turning  point 
well  amidships,  so  that  the  boat  can  answer  her  helm  almost 
as  though  she  were  on  a  pivot.  In  practice,  this  type  of 
construction  has  proved  eminently  successful,  eminently 
economical  and  in  all  respects  satisfactory. 

The  writer  has  had  little  experience  with  the 
turbine  engine  as  a  method  of  propulsion.  But  at 
present,  while  excellent  for  driving  pumps,  certain 
difficulties  over  a  satisfactory  reversing  gear  render 
this  system  in  its  existing  state  of  development  use- 
less for  propelling  fire-boats.  Naturally,  of  greatest  interest 
to  fire  fighters  is  the  question  of  the  pumps,  their  style  and 


266  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

capacity;  for  as  long  as  the  driving  engines  are  of  the  best 
compound  type, — engines  of  this  construction  are  more 
easily  heated  than  those  of  triple  expansion,  and  hence  are 
of  more  general  use  in  fire-boats — there  is  no  particular 
specification  of  propelling  machinery  to  be  recommended. 
Many  boats  of  old  design  are  fitted  with  reciprocating 
pumps,  and  have  done  and  are  doing  excellent  work.  But 
it  is  almost  impossible  to  obtain  boilers  capable  of  operating 
the  latter  at  their  full  capacity  say  of  10,000  gallons  a 
minute.  It  resolves  itself  into  a  question  of  piston  speed, 
and  it  has  been  found  that  under  working  conditions  the 
steam  supply  estimated  to  obtain  the  same,  as  predeter- 
mined, rarely  accomplishes  its  task.  Now,  centrifugal 
pumps  can  do  the  same  work  with  half  the  steam,  and 
hence,  with  care,  this  should  enable  a  boat  to  manoeuvre  and 
at  the  same  time  to  run  her  water  battery  to  full  capacity. 
The  total  volume  of  the  streams  per  minute,  in  the  opinion 
of  the  writer  should  amount  to  7,500  gallons  of  sea  water 
at  a  pressure  of  185  pounds  per  square  inch.  As  far  as 
actual  deck  equipment  is  concerned,  the  main  feature  is 
the  emplacement  of  two  circular  turrets,  each  operating  nine 
separate  streams  of  water  and  surmounted  by  a  turret  pipe, 
through  which  a  powerful  jet  of  from  two  to  three  inches 
can  be  thrown.  The  old  style  of  running  a  water  circuit 
around  a  boat  represents  considerable  weight,  causes  con- 
fusion and  adds  to  labour.  The  turret  concentrates  the 
work  and  is  better  adapted  for  the  supervision  of  the  officer 
in  charge.  Provision  for  a  water  tower  can  be  arranged  by 
constructing  the  mast  on  the  military  lattice  girder  system, 
surmounted  with  a  fighting  top  platform,  so  designed  that 
not  only  can  two  turret  pipes  be  operated  therefrom,  but 
also  a  number  of  smaller  jets,  which  may  not  inaptly  be 
compared  with  the  machine  guns  of  the  battleship.  This 
system  has  been  found  most  effective  in  fighting  warehouse 
and  pier  fires.  Boats  should  be  kept  under  steam  at  all 
times  in  order  that  there  may  be  no  delay  in  starting.  In 
New  York,  where  there  is  a  large  fire  flotilla,  it  has  been 
found  necessary  to  organize  the  same  into  a  homogeneous 


SEAPORT    PROBLEMS  367 

unit,  the  better  to  insure  its  efficient  cooperation.  The 
Chief  of  this  marine  battalion  responds  to  fires  in  a  steam 
launch  and  commands  on  the  water  side.  A  code  of  signals 
has  been  established  by  means  of  the  siren  whistle,  and 
in  this  way  orders  are  transmitted  from  the  Chief  over 
a  considerable  distance,  even  though  the  smoke  be  heavy 
and  the  boats  invisible.  Above  all,  the  personnel  of  these 
craft  should  be  accustomed  to  the  handling  of  boats,  if 
not  actually  sailors.  They  must  be  alert,  active  and  in- 
telligent, while  it  is  obvious  for  economical  reasons  that 
the  engineers  and  their  assistants  should  be  highly  qualified. 
Otherwise  constant  repairs  will  keep  the  boats  out  of  com- 
mission and  entail  vexatious  expense. 

One  of  the  most  terrible  disasters,  which  well  exempli- 
fies the  perils  of  wharf  fires,  occurred  on  Saturday,  June 
3Oth,  1900,  at  the  Jersey  side  piers  of  the  North  German 
Lloyd  in  New  York  harbour.  At  four  in  the  afternoon  on 
that  eventful  day,  while  hundreds  of  curious  visitors  were 
inspecting  the  four  latest  additions  to  the  German  line,  a 
fire  broke  out  amongst  some  merchandise  on  Pier  3,  along- 
side of  which  the  steamer  Saale  was  moored.  The  origin 
of  the  outbreak  is  obscure,  but  it  was  probably  caused  by 
some  unconsidered  act  of  carelessness  either  on  the  part 
of  an  employee  or  of  one  of  the  sightseers.  Be  that  as  it 
may,  in  less  than  fifteen  minutes  the  flames,  fed  by  stores 
of  cotton,  turpentine  and  oil  which  were  lying  unpro- 
tected on  the  docks,  swept  with  inconceivable  speed  from 
pier  to  pier,  and  before  the  immensity  of  the  outbreak 
could  be  realized  an  area  a  quarter  of  a  mile  square  had 
been  devastated.  A  strong  breeze  was  blowing  from  the 
southward  at  the  time  and  to  this  the  staggering  rapidity 
of  the  conflagration  was  no  doubt  partially  due. 

Now,  it  must  be  clearly  understood  that,  owing  to  a  cu- 
rious anomaly,  the  New  York  Fire  Department,  including 
its  fire-boats,  had  at  that  time  no  jurisdiction  in  the  State 
of  New  Jersey,  and  hence  was  unable  to  afford  any  as- 
sistance to  the  vessels  in  distress,  until  they  were  in  the 
open  stream  and  upon,  so  to  speak,  neutral  waters.  Then 


268  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

everything  was  done  which  science,  skill  and  daring  could 
suggest.  In  view  of  the  disastrous  turn  of  subsequent 
events,  this  fact  should  be  borne  in  mind. 

The  first  intimation  of  something  wrong  reached  visitors 
in  the  Kaiser  Wilhelm  der  Grosse,  the  then  "ocean  gray- 
hound,"  through  the  appalling  noise  of  hundreds  of  barrels 
filled  with  pitch  exploding  from  the  heat,  like  salvos  of 
heavy  artillery.  A  wild  rush  for  the  gangways  followed, 
but  the  ship's  officers  with  consummate  coolness  averted 
a  panic  by  announcing  that  the  vessel  would  proceed  im- 
mediately into  midstream,  happily  having  a  sufficient  head 
of  steam  to  accomplish  this  manoeuvre.  The  seamen  has- 
tily cast  off,  but  so  intense  was  the  onrush  of  the  fire  that 
one  man  slackening  a  stern  hawser  found  the  wire  already 
glowing  from  the  heat.  With  her  decks  ablaze,  her  wood- 
work crackling,  and  clouds  of  steam  roaring  through  her 
exhaust  pipes,  she  presented  a  terrifying  spectacle  as  she 
made  her  way  slowly  to  safety.  Tugs  immediately  went  to 
her  assistance,  her  guests  were  rapidly  transferred  and  the 
fire  was  extinguished,  but  not  before  considerable  damage 
had  been  done  to  her  splendid  and  luxurious  cabin  appoint- 
ments, which  had  been  the  talk  of  both  sides  of  the  At- 
lantic. Alas,  not  so  fortunate  were  her  sisters,  who,  not 
having  steam  up,  were  powerless  to  escape.  To  depict 
exactly  what  occurred  upon  these  vessels  at  such  a  time 
of  confusion  and  horror  would  in  any  case  be  almost  im- 
possible, and,  in  addition,  of  the  few  survivors,  none  could 
give  a  coherent  narrative  since,  practically  imprisoned  upon 
the  lower  decks,  they  were  able  only  to  realize  that  death 
in  some  form  was  threatening  them.  The  Saale,  in  the  very 
heart  of  the  flames,  was  cast  loose  and  drifted  slowly  into 
the  stream,  a  menace  to  shipping  and  a  veritable  funeral 
pyre  to  those  on  board.  Hundreds  of  desperate  creatures 
jumped  overboard  and  were  picked  up  by  passing  boats. 
But  hundreds  of  others  were  less  lucky  and  were  roasted 
to  death  in  the  depths  of  that  floating  inferno.  Little 
could  be  seen  of  their  plight,  but  as  fire-boats  surrounded 
the  smoking  hull,  faint  cries  from  the  lower  ports  attracted 


DOCK   FIRE,   JERSEY   CITY. 


SEAPORT   PROBLEMS  269 

attention.  Suddenly  a  naked  arm  shot  out  through  the 
murk,  and  a  voice,  cracked  with  terror,  screamed  for  help. 
Rescuers  placed  a  hose  line  in  the  grasp  of  the  quivering 
hand  and  as  the  water  brought  temporary  relief,  the  crazed 
sufferer  was  understood  to  say  that  with  him  were  forty 
odd  men  and  women  awaiting  their  doom.  A  desperate 
effort  was  made  to  haul  him  through  the  port,  but  his 
shoulders  prevented  his  escape,  and  even  as  he  was  making 
one  supreme  attempt  to  dodge  death,  a  wisp  of  flame  shot 
wickedly  out  from  behind  him  and  branded  him  with  its 
fiery  tongue.  With  a  shriek  of  demoniacal  laughter,  he 
surrendered  himself  to  his  agony  and  fell  back  to  be  seen 
no  more.  Another  belch  of  smoke  from  the  port  and  then 
a  horrid  silence.  The  little  band  of  prisoners  were  beyond 
human  aid,  and  had  journeyed  to  that  bourne  from  which 
no  travelers  return. 

Slowly  the  Saale  drifted  down  the  Hudson,  a  moving 
emblem  of  the  vanity  of  life  and  the  evanescence  of  all 
things.  Before  it  finally  grounded  off  Ellis  Island  another 
incident  replete  with  painful  tragedy  was  to  occur.  A 
woman's  voice  was  heard  calling  from  one  of  the  ports  of 
the  main  deck  cabins,  and  rescuers  could  plainly  see  and 
converse  with  its  owner — a  stewardess.  Again  the  nar- 
rowness of  the  ports  spelled  death — a  death  so  supremely 
horrible  in  its  essentials  that  it  scarcely  bears  narration. 
The  fire  was  just  eating  its  way  through  the  paneled  door 
of  the  cabin,  and  with  the  aid  of  a  hose  length  from  a  tug 
the  woman  fought  gamely  for  her  life.  Needless  to  say, 
the  odds  were  all  on  one  side.  To  escape  was  impossible, 
but  none  the  less  the  unequal  contest  continued  until, 
with  hands  blistered,  eyes  blinded,  clothes  burning,  with 
a  cry  for  mercy  to  her  Creator,  this  brave  soul  passed  to 
her  reward.  The  case  of  the  Main  was  equally  desperate. 
Although  a  thousand  feet  away  from  the  outbreak  she 
caught  fire  almost  instantaneously,  and  her  decks  were  swept 
bare  as  though  in  the  path  of  some  giant  tornado.  There 
was  no  time  even  to  cast  off,  and  until  the  flames  had  eaten 
through  the  connecting  hawsers  she  weltered  in  a  whirl- 


270  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

pool  of  fire.  A  few  persons  had  jumped  overboard  at 
the  first  alarm  and  were  seen  clinging  to  her  propellers; 
then  one  by  one  they  were  overcome  and  dropped  off  in 
the  muddy  eddy  which  lapped  the  dock  wall.  Thus  she 
lay  for  some  hours,  and  it  is  indeed  surprising  to  relate 
that  even  sixteen  persons  out  of  her  complement  of  one 
hundred  and  fifty  managed  to  escape.  And  the  story  of 
their  escape  is  indeed  miraculous.  They  were  all  coal- 
passers  or  engineers,  engaged  in  their  professional  du- 
ties about  the  engine  room.  Upon  the  alarm  being  given 
they  had  found  all  means  of  exit  to  the  deck  cut  off  by 
the  flames,  and  had  consequently  retreated  to  one  of  the 
coal  bunkers,  the  door  of  which  they  closed.  For  eight 
hours  they  remained  there  uncertain  of  their  fate,  ignorant 
of  what  was  happening  and  in  a  temperature  which  made 
it  painful  to  breathe.  For  some  considerable  time  the 
electric  lights  burned  steadily,  a  sardonic  reminder  that  a 
supernatural  stoker  had  taken  charge  of  their  duties  and 
was  generating  the  steam  necessary  to  keep  the  dynamo 
running.  Then  came  a  flicker,  the  lights  shone  with  an 
uncanny  brilliancy,  and  then  there  was  darkness.  The 
silence  was  still  broken  by  the  monotonous  hum  of  the 
ammonia  pumps,  connected  with  the  refrigerator  plant.  It 
seemed  as  though  their  speed  were  being  increased  by 
some  ghostly  mechanic,  for  the  hum  developed  into  a 
mighty  roar,  culminating  in  an  explosion,  and  then  there 
was  silence. 

It  was  at  eleven  thirty  that  night  that  the  poor,  help- 
less Main  was  grappled  by  a  fire-boat,  the  crew  of  which, 
hearing  voices,  located  these  prisoners  and  succeeded  in 
hauling  them  one  by  one  through  a  coal  port.  Their  con- 
dition was  desperate,  but  ultimately  they  all  recovered,  with 
the  exception  of  one  man  who  had  been  partially  blinded 
by  steam  and  died  in  hospital. 

The  plight  of  the  fourth  liner,  the  Bremen,  was  not 
quite  so  critical,  as  the  fire  did  not  succeed  in  getting  a 
good  hold  below  decks.  She  was,  however,  crammed  with 
visitors,  which  would  account  for  the  fact  that  seventy- 


SEAPORT   PROBLEMS  271 

four  persons  perished  aboard  her.  Like  the  others  she 
drifted  away  from  the  burning  docks,  and  it  was  some 
considerable  time  before  tugs  and  fire-boats  had  succeeded 
in  getting  her  under  control.  Meanwhile,  she  was  acting 
as  a  veritable  torch  to  all  shipping  and  wharves  with  which 
she  came  in  contact.  Carried  by  the  current  toward  the 
New  York  shore,  she  imperilled  all  the  docks  from  Thirty- 
third  Street  to  the  Battery.  In  fact,  so  serious  was  the 
menace  that  alarms  were  sent  in  to  city  fire  stations,  and 
men  and  apparatus  stood  by,  ready  for  all  eventualities. 
One  lighter  passed  her,  caught  fire,  and  drifted  alongside 
the  Baltimore  and  Ohio  wharf,  which  promptly  in  its 
turn  took  fire.  Fortunately  this  outbreak  was  quickly  sup- 
pressed, but  the  same  thing  occurred  at  several  points, 
a  sufficient  indication  of  the  peril  which  was  threatening 
the  whole  river  front.  However,  the  danger  was  averted 
and  the  Bremen  secured  and  later  beached  in  shallow 
water. 

On  the  Jersey  side  of  the  river,  the  desperate  work  of 
the  fire-fighters  had  had  its  effect,  and  the  Scandinavian- 
American  Line  docks,  which  adjoined  the  North  German 
Lloyd,  escaped  with  the  inevitable  injury  caused  by  burning 
embers  starting  subsidiary  fires.  At  one  moment,  it  was 
seriously  feared  that  they,  the  Hamburg-American  Line, 
the  Holland-America  Line  and  the  Wilson  Line  sheds 
would  all  become  involved,  together  with  the  vessels  moored 
alongside,  which  would  have  constituted  one  of  the  great- 
est disasters  in  the  history  of  maritime  conflagrations. 
Happily,  however,  such  a  catastrophe  was  avoided,  and  in 
spite  of  the  enormous  damage  the  fire  was  practically  under 
control  within  six  hours  of  its  inception.  But  to  the  day  of 
their  death,  those  who  saw  the  Hudson  in  that  summer 
twilight,  will  never  forget  its  fantastic  appearance.  The 
four  great  liners  vomiting  flames  and  smoke,  and  sur- 
rounded with  puffing  tugs  and  busy  fire-boats,  while  a 
couple  of  dozen  smaller  craft  floated  hither  and  thither 
on  the  most  congested  waterway  of  the  world,  aflame  from 
stem  to  stern,  and  reminiscent  of  nothing  so  much  as  an 


272  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

Armada  of  old  time  fire-ships  intent  upon  destruction. 
Doubtless,  human  forethought,  energy  and  determination 
in  no  small  degree  vanquished  this  enemy,  but  Providence 
must  have  been  watching  over  New  York  that  day. 

The  actual  extent  of  the  pecuniary  loss  entailed  by  this 
conflagration  has  been  assessed  at  $6,000,000 — a  mere  baga- 
telle in  comparison  with  the  four  hundred  lives  which  were 
sacrificed.  There  have  been,  of  course,  bigger  disasters  of 
the  same  nature  financially,  such  as  that  of  Hamburg  where 
it  is  estimated  that  fire  destroyed  $45,000,000  worth  of 
property,  but  none  has  approximated  to  this  in  its  sheer 
horror,  and  in  bringing  home  to  the  lay  mind  just  what 
may  occur  as  the  result  of  a  small  outbreak  upon  a  wharf. 
It  is  almost  as  though  human  nature  required  the  sacrifice 
of  life,  grief -stricken  homes  and  the  poignant  realization 
of  the  grimness  of  death,  in  order  to  bestir  itself  towards 
the  adoption  of  fire  prevention  in  its  most  simple  forms. 

Even  the  uninitiated  will  realize  readily  that  the  methods 
of  coping  with  fires  on  board  ships  must  differ  radically 
from  the  systems  commonly  in  vogue  on  land.  In  the  first 
place  the  construction  of  a  ship  is  such  that  successfully  to 
deal  with  an  outbreak  bespeaks  a  rough  general  knowledge 
of  naval  architecture,  without  which  the  most  intelligent 
officer  must  be  hopelessly  nonplussed.  But  under  any  cir- 
cumstances, it  is  the  business  of  the  Fire  Chief  upon  arrival 
alongside  the  vessel  to  consult  with  the  Captain  or  whoever 
may  be  in  charge,  with  a  view  to  ascertaining,  if  possible, 
the  location  of  the  fire  and  the  nature  of  the  cargo,  upon 
which  latter  much  depends.  In  addition,  on  all  large  steam- 
ers a  plan  of  the  vessel  is  placed  in  the  chart  house  and 
this  will  show  in  diagrammatic  form,  the  various  holds, 
with  distances  from  one  bulkhead  to  another,  the  ventilator 
shafts,  and  other  details  of  the  greatest  value  in  deciding 
upon  the  plan  of  attack.  The  location  of  the  outbreak 
having  been  ascertained,  which  should  only  occupy  a  few 
minutes,  all  hose  lines  should  be  stretched  and  in  readiness 
before  removing  the  hatches.  Also,  if  steam  is  being  al- 
ready used  to  hold  the  fire,  a  common  method  on  board 


SEAPORT   PROBLEMS  273 

ships,  it  should  be  shut  off  as  soon  as  the  preparations 
outlined  have  been  made,  as  it  seldom  happens  that  men 
can  enter  either  the  holds  or  "  'tween-decks"  of  vessels 
where  resort  has  been  made  to  this  plan,  without  allowing 
time  for  the  atmosphere  to  cool ;  a  matter  of  moments  per- 
haps, but  in  such  cases  it  is  the  seconds  saved  which  count. 
Everything  will  now  depend  upon  the  location  of  the  blaze. 
If  it  is  in  the  lower  holds,  the  best  thing  to  do  is  to 
remove  a  hatch  in  the  lower  deck,  drop  the  hose  line 
through  the  opening  and  simply  flood  the  compartment. 
Should  the  fire,  however,  be  "  'tween-decks,"  a  different 
means  of  attack  may  be  successfully  employed,  providing 
there  be  port  lights  in  the  ship's  side.  These  should  be 
stove  in  about  twelve  feet  apart,  a  fire-boat  should  be  run 
alongside  and  should  bring  into  play  her  lines  armed  with 
distributing  nozzles,  which  latter  should  be  forced  through 
the  ports,  water  being  pumped  in  at  a  pressure  sufficient 
to  give  about  fifty  pounds  to  the  sprays.  If  it  is  possible 
to  reach  the  ports  on  the  other  side  of  the  ship,  similar 
tactics  should  be  adopted,  and  in  most  cases  the  fire  will 
quickly  be  under  control.  Then  a  ladder  should  be  placed 
down  the  hatch.  As  a  rule  there  is  a  built-in  ladder  in 
every  hatch,  but  failing  this  a  regulation  fire  ladder  should 
be  used,  providing  solid  foundation  can  be  discovered  for 
it.  Further,  all  men  employing  the  same  should  have  a  line 
around  them,  in  order  that  they  may  be  hauled  to  safety 
in  the  event  of  any  accident.  Ventilators  leading  from  the 
deck  on  fire  should  be  utilized  for  dropping  down  hose 
with  distributing  nozzles  into  the  affected  area,  which  will 
render  valuable  assistance  in  cooling  down  the  compart- 
ment. Finally  amongst  preliminaries,  if  the  pipes  used  for 
sub-cellar  work  are  long  enough  to  operate,  they  should 
be  utilized  down  the  hatchway.  An  important  point  to  be 
remembered  now  is,  that  all  cargo  ports  must  be  closed. 
This  is  rendered  absolutely  necessary,  since  the  water  being 
pumped  into  the  vessel  is  bound  to  give  her  some  list,  and 
if  the  ports  are  left  unclosed  there  is  the  strong  possibility 
that  she  may  heel  over  and  consequently  fill  and  sink.  But 


274  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

this  by  no  means  concludes  the  long  list  of  precautions  to 
be  taken  or  knotty  problems  to  be  solved.  Since  such 
great  volumes  of  water  are  being  steadily  and  persistently 
pumped  into  the  ship,  it  stands  to  reason  that  her  draught 
will  rapidly  increase,  and  if  she  takes  the  ground,  she  will 
instantly  list  heavily  and  probably  endanger  the  lives  of 
everyone  assisting  on  board,  let  alone  rendering  the  actual 
fire-fighting  ten  times  more  difficult.  To  keep  her  on  an 
even  keel  is  the  primal  necessity  of  the  situation  and  this 
demands  as  much  scientific  diagnosis  of  the  needs  of  the 
moment  as  ever  medical  man  was  called  upon  to  expend 
over  an  unknown  patient  suffering  from  an  obscure  com- 
plaint. To  those  who  know  them,  ships  are  almost  human 
in  their  idiosyncrasies,  and  the  slightest  mistake  in  their 
treatment  may  spell  irretrievable  disaster. 

First  and  foremost,  if  the  vessel  seems  likely  to  take  the 
ground,  by  hook  or  crook,  get  her  off  into  deeper  water, 
and  should  she  be  light,  fill  her  ballast  tanks.  An  ex- 
pedient at  times  resorted  to,  but  by  ro  means  to  be  recom- 
mended under  ordinary  conditions  is  to  flood  the  life-boats 
on  the  weather  side,  thus  so  to  speak  levering  her  back 
into  position.  But  this  is  obviously  dangerous  in  the 
extreme  and  should  never  be  resorted  to,  unless  those 
superintending  the  operation  are  experts  and  understand 
shipcraft  from  A  to  Z.  Again,  should  the  fire  be  gaining 
ground  and  it  seem  as  though  it  were  getting  out  of 
control,  it  is  impossible  to  avoid  heroic  methods,  and  she 
must  be  towed  to  shoal  water  and  beached,  care  being  taken 
that  her  decks  will  no  more  than  lie  awash.  Admittedly 
this  is  a  last  expedient,  but  it  will  save  her  from  total 
destruction,  providing  she  is  sunk  in  shallow  water,  which 
will,  of  course,  make  it  possible  to  pump  her  out  and  float 
her  again.  It  might  be  imagined  that  such  total  immersion 
would  subdue  any  fire  known  to  man,  yet  the  fact  remains 
that  cotton  is  so  obstinate  in  its  resistance  that  the  writer 
has  seen  bales,  which  have  been  a  whole  week  under 
water,  at  a  depth  of  forty  feet,  that,  upon  being  examined 
shortly  after  coming  to  the  surface,  were  not  only  smoul- 


SEAPORT   PROBLEMS  275 

dering  inside,  but,  upon  being  prodded,  burst  into  flame. 
This  gives  some  idea  of  the  stubbornness  to  be  encountered 
in  dealing  with  some  cargoes,  and  it  is  small  exaggeration  to 
hazard  the  statement  that  raw  cotton  requires  as  much  at- 
tention as  guncotton,  from  the  skipper's  point  of  view,  i.  e., 
the  safety  of  his  crew  and  himself. 

A  vessel  reaching  port  already  on  fire,  and  which 
has  signaled  for  assistance,  offers  again  a  rather  dif- 
ferent aspect  of  affairs  with  which  to  cope.  In  this 
instance,  steam  should  be  kept  playing  on  the  affected 
area  and  the  hatches  battened  down,  until  all  passengers 
have  been  taken  off.  Anything  likely  to  cause  a  panic 
would  be  fatal  and  quite  unnecessary.  Under  the  condi- 
tions named,  there  would  be  no  danger  of  an  immediate 
and  fatal  spread  of  the  outbreak,  such  as  in  the  case  of 
a  building  might  cause  loss  of  life  within  a  few  minutes. 
As  mentioned  elsewhere  in  this  volume,  it  cannot  be  empha- 
sized too  strongly  that,  in  the  opinion  of  the  writer,  steam 
alone  will  rarely  extinguish  a  fire.  In  itself,  it  has  already 
absorbed  a  great  quantity  of  heat  and  its  transformation 
from  a  liquid  state  into  vapor  has  been  due  to  just  such  ele- 
mental activity  as  it  is  now  called  upon  to  subdue.  Hence 
how  can  it  be  expected  to  exercise  a  cooling  effect,  which, 
after  all,  is  what  is  needed,  when  itself  over  boiling  point. 
All  that  can  be  expected  is  some  temporary  check, 
consequent  upon  moisture,  but  as  a  permanent  and  real  stay 
to  flames  it  is  comparatively  useless.  It  seems  almost 
needless  to  say  that  in  bringing  fire-boats  alongside  steam- 
ers unmanageable  on  account  of  fire  or  whose  steering 
gear  is  in  danger  owing  to  its  becoming  affected  by  great 
heat,  the  former  should  take  up  a  position  on  the  quarter 
from  which  it  is  possible  to  control  and  steer  the  latter. 
In  addition,  in  all  open  waters,  care  should  be  taken  so  to 
handle  the  burning  vessel  that  the  flames  may  be  pre- 
vented from  sweeping  the  decks,  as  undoubtedly  would 
occur  were  she  forced  head  on  into  a  strong  breeze,  the 
fire  being  forward  or  vice  versa.  In  either  case  she  should 
be  kept  before  the  wind,  thus  minimizing  the  area  open 


276  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

to  attack  and  at  least  giving  the  operators  some  deck  room 
upon  which  to  organize  their  defense.  Though  strictly, 
perhaps,  not  within  the  scope  of  this  chapter,  the  writer 
is  strongly  of  opinion  that  the  time  has  arrived  when  all 
ships  should  be  compelled  to  carry  some  simple  and  effec- 
tive form  of  automatic  fire  preventive  apparatus.  The 
sprinkler  system  would  appear  to  offer  many  advantages 
and  to  be  easy  of  installation  in  vessels  of  new  construc- 
tion. This  might  be  controlled  either  from  the  chart  house, 
where  exists  at  present  the  "smoke  pipe"  designed  to  warn 
the  officers  of  a  fire  in  any  hold,  when  upon  being  definitely 
located  the  system  might  be  brought  into  operation,  the 
flow  being  controlled  by  the  ship's  pumps,  or  alternatively 
the  installation  might  be  arranged  on  lines  broadly  simi- 
lar to  those  in  use  at  theatres.  This  would  demand  a 
fusible  plug,  which  at  a  certain  temperature  would  melt, 
allowing  a  heavy  and  constant  stream  of  water  over  a 
certain  defined  area,  the  pressure,  of  course,  being  con- 
stantly maintained  by  the  ship's  pumps  as  in  the  other 
case.  No  doubt,  expense  would  be  urged  as  a  deterrent 
to  the  introduction  of  any  such  appliances,  but  it  does 
seem  passing  strange  that  when  precautions  without  num- 
ber are  now  being  taken  to  save  the  careless  from  the 
comparatively  rare  peril  of  the  iceberg,  so  little  attention  is 
given  to  the  ever-present  menace  of  that  most  ghastly  enemy 
at  sea,  the  flames.  Or  can  it  be,  as  has  been  suggested,  that 
what  is  wanting  is  the  lurid  lesson  of  a  great  fire  in  mid- 
ocean.  In  conclusion,  a  few  words  may  not  be  amiss  anent 
the  position  the  fire-boat  may  conceivably  play  in  any 
municipality  boasting  of  a  water  way,  without  which  the 
necessity  for  such  a  costly  accessory  could  not  exist.  It  is 
commonly  presumed  that  a  fire-boat,  as  such,  must  confine 
its  attentions  to  its  own  element,  and  can  in  no  wise  be 
regarded  as  amphibious.  This  is  an  error,  which  has  been 
practically  demonstrated  by  the  writer.  Properly  handled, 
the  fire-boat  becomes  a  most  powerful  and  useful  auxiliary 
to  land  apparatus. 
•  During  the  San  Francisco  conflagration,  it  is  reported 


James  Duane   IN  ACTION. 


SEAPORT   PROBLEMS  277 

that  from  a  Government  Revenue  cutter  a  line  of  hose 
was  run  for  half  a  mile  and  that  its  cooperation  even  then 
was  valuable.  The  words,  "even  then"  are  inserted,  since 
with  the  limited  pressure  available  from  the  pumps  of 
such  a  vessel  and  with  no  natural  aids  such  as  gravity, 
the  nozzle  power  of  such  a  stream  could  not  be  seriously 
considered  as  of  particular  importance,  unless  water  was 
altogether  lacking,  as  in  the  case  mentioned.  But  from 
tests  made  in  New  York  it  was  conclusively  proved  re- 
cently that  it  was  feasible  and  caused  no  undue  strain  on 
apparatus  to  discharge  a  jet  through  a  one-and-an-eighth- 
inch  nozzle  at  about  two-thirds  of  a  mile  from  the  fire-boat 
acting  as  a  pumping  station,  the  nozzle  pressure  approxi- 
mating fifty  pounds  to  the  square  inch.  There  were  two 
relay  engines  in  the  shape  of  two  ordinary  steam  fire  pumps, 
and  when  the  pressure  on  the  fire-boat  registered  280 
pounds,  the  further  engine  maintained  a  nozzle  pressure  of 
fifty-nine  pounds,  giving  291  gallons  a  minute,  not  a  great 
stream,  but  considering  the  conditions  of  the  experiment 
sufficient  to  show  the  possibilities  attendant  upon  the  in- 
troduction of  the  fire-boat  as  a  land  auxiliary.  The  distance 
for  effective  relay  of  water  can  be  proportionately  increased 
by  multiplying  initial  fire-boat  lines  and  siamesing  them. 
One  New  York  fire-boat  can  furnish  twelve  three  and  a  half 
inch  lines,  sufficient  to  supply  twenty-four  engines  under 
conditions  similar  to  the  test.  That  in  itself  is  sufficient 
for  the  handling  of  a  large  fire.  Thus,  it  will  be  seen  that, 
in  great  emergencies,  here  is  an  auxiliary  to  the  fire  force 
on  land  which  is  at  least  impervious  to  the  breaking  of 
mains,  climatic  or  seismic  interruptions,  and  hence  not 
lightly  to  be  neglected. 


CHAPTER  XIX 

FIRE  STRATEGY  IN  THE  HOMES  OF  THE  PEOPLE 

To  prevent  a  fire  is  one  thing,  to  fight  it  is  another,  and 
since  this  volume  deals  with  all  aspects  of  the  subject  some 
consideration  must  be  given  to  "fire-fighting"  in  its  active 
sense,  that  is,  how  to  deal  with  outbreaks  when  an  alarm 
is  turned  in  and  the  best  method  of  using  apparatus.  This 
may  sound  to  the  lay  reader  stale  and  unprofitable  reading, 
but  if  he  will  take  his  courage  in  both  hands  and  dip  into 
the  subject  in  ever  so  small  a  degree,  he  will  find  much 
to  give  him  thought,  much  that  will  be  of  value  to  him  and 
a  certain  number  of  useful  hints  which  should  be  of  assist- 
ance to  him  should  he  ever  be  unfortunate  enough  as  to 
be  involved  in  a  fire.  The  fire  risk  becomes  more  apparent 
as  soon  as  it  is  realized  that  it  is  a  menace  to  the  "Home," 
and  that  the  flames  are  no  respecters  of  persons  and  are 
as  likely  to  visit  the  mansion  or  the  tenement  as  the  factory 
or  the  warehouse.  It  is  hard  to  realize  when  reading 
newspaper  reports  of  some  great  conflagration,  quite  what 
it  all  means;  it  seems  so  far  away,  so  remote  from  the 
happenings  of  daily  routine,  that  it  is  perused  with  passing 
interest  and  forgotten.  Then  comes  the  day,  when  sud1 
denly  the  menace  appears  in  all  its  lurid  horror,  and  behold 
the  occasion  when  an  ounce  of  knowledge  regarding  fire 
and  its  usual  course  of  progress  may  be  the  means  of  pre- 
venting the  advance  of  the  enemy  and  of  saving  human 
life.  Of  course,  prevention  is  better  than  cure,  but  even 
as  the  hypochondriac  occasionally  falls  a  victim  to  the  ills 
the  flesh  is  heir  to,  and  has  to  invoke  scientific  aid  in  order 
to  regain  his  health,  so  is  it  with  fire.  With  all  the  pre- 
278 


FIRE  STRATEGY  IN  HOMES  OF  PEOPLE  279 

cautions  in  the  world,  it  is  impossible  to  guarantee  that  an 
outbreak  will  never  occur,  but  it  is  within  the  ken  of  man, 
what  then  to  do,  and  though  the  professional  will  be  needed 
to  fight  with  the  sufferer  as  the  doctor  does  with  his  patient, 
the  individual  who  is  prepared  for  the  onset  and  knows 
just  what  course  the  attack  will  probably  take  is  doubly 
armed  against  the  foe.  It  is  for  this  reason  that  the  writer 
is  hopeful  that  the  general  reader  will  persevere  and  glance 
through  the  following  pages.  Certainly  if  a  person  of 
discernment,  the  previous  chapters  will  have  shown  him 
how  life  has  often  been  unnecessarily  sacrificed  at  fires, 
when  well  directed  action  would  have  saved  the  situation. 

In  all  countries  responses  to  fire  calls,  particularly  those 
turned  in  from  street  boxes,  are  usually  very  prompt.  As 
a  rule  about  twenty  seconds  is  consumed  in  hitching  up 
and  getting  the  apparatus  out  of  quarters.  Horses  are 
trained  to  come  to  their  places  at  the  pole  on  a  gallop  and 
all  harness  is  hung  with  an  open  collar,  which  locks  with 
a  snap.  Commonly,  three  engines  and  two  hook  and  ladder 
companies  are  designated  to  respond  on  the  first  alarm,  and, 
in  making  the  assignments,  the  company,  nearest  the 
spot  from  which  the  call  was  sent  in,  is  expected  to  be 
the  first  to  reach  its  destination.  In  forwarding  reports 
of  operations  at  fires  the  officers  must  state  the  order 
of  their  arrival  and  also  which  company  gets  to  work 
quickest. 

It  will  be  easily  deduced  that  this  creates  a  spirit  of 
the  keenest  rivalry,  and  to  be  beaten  in  a  dash  to  an 
outbreak  at  which  a  company  is  first  due  is  consid- 
ered a  humiliation.  If  it  happens  twice  in  succes- 
sion the  commander  of  the  defeated  company  is  asked 
for  an  explanation,  allowances  being  made  for  gradi- 
ents and  traffic,  and  should  it  appear  that  the 
company  is  lacking  in  energy  or  vim  caused  in  any  way 
by  indifference  on  the  part  of  officers  or  men,  a  reorganiza- 
tion is  sure  to  follow.  This,  then,  is  the  primal  step  towards 
the  formation  of  a  good  company,  which  is  the  unit  of 
organization.  Horses  must  be  carefully  trained,  for  a  few 


280  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

seconds  lost  in  getting  away  from  quarters  cannot  be  made 
up  en  route,  particularly  when  the  other  companies  have 
had  a  better  start.  The  driver  is  as  important  as  his  animals 
and  should  be  a  man  trained  to  the  hour  and  one  who  knows 
every  inch  of  the  streets,  and  every  fire  hydrant  in  the  dis- 
trict to  which  his  company  may  be  called.  Many  an  occa- 
sion can  be  recalled  by  the  writer  when,  on  the  way  to  a  fire, 
he  reviewed  the  whole  district  surrounding  the  box  whence 
the  alarm  was  received,  and  had  the  hydrants  clearly 
in  mind  as  the  engine  approached  its  destination;  often 
pulling  up  in  front  of  one  completely  shut  off  from  view 
by  obstructions,  secure  in  his  knowledge  of  its  existence. 
The  engineer  should  be  equally  well  informed  and  should 
know  the  size  of  the  main  on  which  the  hydrant  is  situated 
and  how  much  water  can  be  drawn  therefrom.  This  pre- 
vents the  mistake  of  having  too  many  engines  located  on 
small  mains  with  low  pressure.  When  approaching  the  fire 
the  engineer  should  jump  from  his  engine,  run  ahead  and 
have  the  cap  off  the  hydrant  as  the  apparatus  pulls  up. 
With  the  change  from  horse  to  motor  as  a  means  of  propul- 
sion, the  department  has  been  shorn  of  some  of  the  spec- 
tacular features  which  in  the  old  days  added  to  the  pic- 
turesqueness  of  the  proceedings,  but  the  dangers  of  injury 
in  responding  to  a  call  through  crowded  thoroughfares  are 
greatly  increased.  Stretching  in  hose  lines  at  fires  has  been 
the  subject  of  many  orders  and  lectures,  but  when  celerity 
is  paramount,  hose  cannot  be  measured  by  the  foot  as  can 
be  done  in  a  class  room.  However,  when  the  location  of 
the  fire  has  been  ascertained,  the  commanding  officer  should 
have  a  fairly  good  idea  of  the  number  of  lengths  required, 
and  it  is  slovenly  and  shows  but  poor  judgment  to  see  hose 
coiled  in  the  streets  in  front  of  the  site  of  the  outbreak. 
Controlling  nozzles  should  be  used  for  inside  work  in  order 
that  the  stream  may  be  shut  off  from  this  point,  and  at 
fires  in  tenements  and  private  dwellings  the  greatest  care 
should  be  exercised  in  the  use  of  water,  as  the  floors  are 
not  "filled."  In  such  cases  water  runs  through  the  floor 
boards,  destroying  the  ceilings  beneath  and  the  furnishings 


RESPONDING   TO  AN  ALARM. 


FIRE  STRATEGY  IN  HOMES  OF  PEOPLE    281 

of  the  lower  floors.  The  best  way  to  illustrate  these  rules 
is  to  assume  an  outbreak  in  an  old  style  tenement,  where 
the  blaze  has  started  in  a  store  on  the  ground  floor.  In 
addition  to  the  main  entrance  and  show  window,  the  store 
has  a  door  opening  from  the  rear  into  a  hallway  where 
are  situated  stairs  which  lead  to  the  apartments  above.  In 
this  type  of  building  there  are  usually  six  floors,  including 
the  store,  with  from  three  to  four  families  on  each.  The 
stairs  are  of  wood,  and  all  partitions  are  stud  covered  with 
wooden  lath  and  plaster.  The  ingenuity  of  man  could 
scarcely  devise  a  better  fire  trap  than  that  which  is  afforded 
by  this  style  of  construction.  To  prevent  the  fire  from 
reaching  the  stair  well,  and  by  this  means  ascending  to 
the  top  only  to  "mushroom"  on  the  highest  floor,  is  the 
first  thing  to  be  done.  A  line  of  hose  should  be  taken  into 
the  hall  to  cover  the  rear  door  and  transom  to  stop  the 
fire  spreading  up  the  stairs,  whereby  that  means  of  escape 
from  the  upper  stories  would  be  cut  off.  The  second  line 
should  attack  the  fire  from  the  front  through  the  main  door, 
while  ladders  should  immediately  be  raised  to  the  front 
fire  escapes  and  the  floors  over  the  store  should  be  exam- 
ined to  make  sure  that  the  blaze  has  not  mounted  through 
pipe  recesses  or  other  vertical  openings.  Should  the  alarm 
have  been  sent  in  with  promptitude  a  fire  of  this  nature 
can,  and  in  all  probability  will,  be  confined  to  the  store 
where  it  originated. 

But  if  there  has  been  delay  and  the  fire  has 
burned  through  the  doors  communicating  with  the  hall- 
way and  stairs,  and  by  means  of  these  latter  has  swept 
through  a  crowded  tenement,  a  very  different  problem 
awaits  the  officer  in  command  upon  his  arrival.  As  in 
the  former  instance,  the  first  line  should  operate  in  the  hall 
to  drive  the  fire  back  through  the  door  leading  to  the  store, 
and  when  that  has  been  accomplished  the  nozzle  should  be 
directed  up  the  stair-well,  which  is  usually  about  twelve 
inches  wide.  A  stream  sent  up  this  opening  will  deaden 
the  fire  down  on  the  upper  landings  which,  at  present,  it  is 
impossible  to  reach  in  any  other  way.  The  second  line 


FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

should  be  opened  on  the  fire  in  the  store  from  the  front 
and  the  flames  subdued  to  prevent  them  ascending  on  the 
outside  of  the  building  and  enveloping  people  who,  by 
this  time,  would  be  crowding  on  the  fire  escapes.  A  few 
seconds  should  suffice  to  quell  this  portion  of  the  out^ 
break,  when  the  line  should  be  taken  to  the  hall  in  order  to 
cover  the  first  company  which,  by  now,  should  be  ascend- 
ing the  stairs.  In  the  meantime,  hook  and  ladder  companies 
would  have  placed  ladders  on  the  street  side  of  the  building 
and  would  have  begun  the  work  of  rescue  from  fire  escapes 
and  windows.  In  cases  of  this  nature  events  move  swiftly, 
and  in  far  less  time  than  it  takes  to  write  a  line  would  be 
rushed  to  the  top  floor  by  front  or  rear  fire  escapes,  gen- 
erally by  the  latter  as  the  landings  are,  in  most  cases,  nearer 
the  back  of  the  structure.  This  line  is  of  the  greatest  im- 
portance, and  if  the  position  is  reached  quickly  the  fire 
should  be  prevented  from  spreading  on  the  top  floors,  One 
man  should  be  sent  by  way  of  adjoining  buildings  to  open 
the  bulkhead  door,  which  is  found  in  all  places  of  this  type 
and  which  leads  from  the  highest  story  to  the  roof,  in 
order  to  assist  in  accomplishing  this  purpose.  All  possible 
effort  should  be  made  to  force  the  advance  line  up  the 
stairs,  and  here  is  where  men  must  take  their  medicine, 
if  need  be.  Life  depends  on  their  grit,  determination 
and  endurance,  for  work  of  this  kind  often  entails  severe 
trial.  By  this  time  the  second  line  in  the  hall  should  have 
killed  the  fire  in  the  store  and  should  immediately  follow 
in  the  rear  of  the  other  line  on  the  stairway,  in  order  to 
prevent  the  flames  coming  out  behind  them  and  cutting 
them  off  or  rendering  their  efforts  abortive.  It  is  essential 
in  fire-fighting,  as  it  is  in  battle,  that  companies  or  columns 
be  supported,  or  in  firemen's  parlance,  "covered."  To  de- 
tach a  column  from  the  main  army  and  direct  it  to  attack  a 
well  intrenched  enemy  without  proper  support  would  seem 
to  the  writer  to  be  a  tactical  error;  and  similarly,  to  order 
an  unaided  company  into  a  position  where  its  retreat  is  cut 
off  by  fire  would  be  a  very  dangerous  proceeding.  In  war 
the  column  would,  in  all  probability,  fall  into  the  hands  of 


FIRE  STRATEGY  IN  HOMES  OF  PEOPLE    283 

the  enemy  and  become  prisoners,  but  fire  takes  no  prisoners, 
and  the  battle  cry  is,  "Death  or  Victory."  Therefore,  it  will 
be  understood  that  companies  must  support  each  other,  the 
most  advanced  being  always  assisted  and  covered  by  the 
other  coming  up  the  stairs  or  on  the  floors  below.  There 
is  one  more  essential  point  to  be  guarded,  namely  the  light 
shaft  which  is  usually  between  two  of  these  buildings,  and 
the  windows  opening  into  this  space  should  be  protected  in 
order  that'  the  fire  should  not  extend  upwards  on  the  outside 
or  cross  the  shaft  and  ignite  the  adjoining  buildings.  This 
disposition  of  forces  should  successfully  deal  with  a  fire 
of  such  a  character  without  loss  of  life,  for  during  the 
operations  described  the  two  hook  and  ladder  companies 
would  have  been  engaged  in  conveying  all  the  residents 
to  a  place  of  safety.  Every  action  or  order  cannot  be  fore- 
told, nor  would  the  writer  attempt  to  say  in  what  respect  a 
commanding  officer  might  find  it  necessary  to  deploy  his 
forces,  but  he  should  use  all  possible  efforts  to  outflank 
the  fire.  He  should  never  neglect,  when  the  flames  have 
control  of  the  stairway,  to  take  a  line  to  the  top  floor  by 
way  of  the  fire  escape.  In  outbreaks  of  this  character 
there  is  always  danger  of  loss  of  life  and  the  risk  is  great- 
est on  the  top  floors,  but  with  a  line  following  the  fire  and 
a  stream  above  it,  the  enemy  is  placed  between  two  bat- 
teries and  his  doom  is  sealed.  The  opening  of  the  bulkhead 
door  in  the  roof  allows  the  heat  and  flame  to  escape,  gives 
the  men  coming  up  the  stairs  a  living  chance  and  permits 
the  other  company  to  effect  an  entrance  from  above  in  order 
to  finish  the  work  already  well  in  hand.  In  dealing  with  an 
old  style  tenement  it  is  important  to  look  carefully  around 
all  pipe  vents,  and  also  the  partitions  near  folding  doors, 
as  every  stud  partition  is  a  vertical  flue  and  there  are  few 
fire-stops.  The  lath  should  be  stripped  until  it  is  satisfac- 
torily proven  that  there  are  no  nests  of  fire  concealed  behind 
the  plaster.  Above  all  things,  a  search  should  be  made  as 
soon  as  possible  in  every  room  for  persons  who  might  have 
been  overcome  by  smoke,  and  the  floors  under  the  beds 
should  be  carefully  inspected  for,  as  already  stated,  children 


284  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

will  invariably  take  refuge  in  these  places,  and  if  not  found 
and  carried  at  once  to  the  open  air  will  die  of  suffocation. 
This  is  a  brief  outline  of  a  fire,  presupposed  to  have  started 
in  a  store,  but  it  may  have  originated  in  the  cellar,  when 
as  the  building  has  an  inside  stairway,  this  latter  should 
immediately  be  covered  to  prevent  the  flames  from  mount- 
ing. Should  it  succeed,  the  outbreak  is  similar  to  the  one 
described.  Therefore,  the  first  object  as  stated  above,  is 
to  confine  the  blaze  and  then  the  cellar  should  be  entered 
by  the  front  or  rear  doors.  When  the  outbreak  has  been 
located,  distributing  nozzles  should  be  used  through  the 
floor  over  the  section  which  shows  the  greatest  heat.  Rapid 
action  is  the  keynote  of  success,  and  as  fire  spreads  like 
lightning  through  these  old  buildings,  a  few  seconds  delay 
may  mean  loss  of  life.  By  quick  stretching  in  and  with  good 
engines  to  give  water  to  the  lines  the  fire  will  be  suppressed, 
and  it  is  just  these  qualities  of  prompt  action  and  swift 
decision  which  have  saved  thousands  of  persons  in  New 
York  City.  Each  year  ten  thousand  fires  occur  in  these 
homes  of  the  working  population,  making  64  per  cent  of  the 
total  number  of  outbreaks  recorded.  Much  more  might  be 
written  on  old  style  tenement  house  fires,  though  should 
such  an  occurrence  originate  on  any  floor  and  spread  to 
the  stair  hall  the  effect  would  be  the  same  and  should  be 
combatted  in  a  like  fashion. 

It  is  not  the  intention  of  the  writer  to  lay  down  specific 
rules  or  to  attempt  to  tell  the  Chief  in  command  at  a  fire 
that  this  or  that  should  be  done,  since  local  conditions 
alter  cases.  For  the  same  reason,  no  rule  is  given  for  life 
saving  beyond  the  raising  of  extension  and  other  ladders 
on  the  front,  and,  if  it  be  possible,  on  the  rear  of  the  tene- 
ment, in  order  to  remove  the  occupants  at  different  points. 
Extraordinary  cases  of  peril,  when  all  human  ingenuity 
seems  exhausted,  often  result  in  daring  feats  of  rescue  ac- 
complished in  a  way  that  no  one  could  foresee.  In  new 
style  tenements  the  stair  halls  are  enclosed  in  brick  walls, 
the  ground  floor  is  fireproof  and  the  hall  doors  leading  to 
the  different  apartments  are  kalomine.  There  is  usually 


FIRE  STRATEGY  {N  HOMES  OF  PEOPLE    285 

a  long  private  hall  running  the  full  length  of  individual 
flats  which,  should  a  fire  break  out,  would  soon  be  heavily 
charged  with  heat  and  smoke.  Should  the  fire  originate 
at  the  end  farthest  from  the  door  through  which  the  firemen 
enter,  great  hardship  is  entailed  in  crawling  the  length  of 
this  narrow  passage  dragging  a  line  of  hose.  Water  should 
not  be  started  until  the  blaze  is  located,  so  that  the  stream 
may  be  played  directly  on  the  flames  instead  of  doing  un- 
necessary damage  by  opening  the  nozzle  when  no  fire  is 
visible.  In  order  to  relieve  the  men  with  the  line,  hook 
and  ladder  companies  should  be  active  in  ventilating  the 
apartment,  and  if  there  be  a  fire  escape  on  the  front  or 
rear,  the  windows  should  be  opened.  In  circumstances 
where  the  fire  has  gained  considerable  headway  a  second 
line  should  be  taken  up  one  of  the  escapes.  Should  a  heavy 
flame  belch  forth  from  windows  on  the  lower  floors,  there 
is  always  danger  of  the  heat  breaking  the  glass  in  those 
overhead,  and  in  this  way  communicating  the  fire  from  floor 
to  floor.  This  should  be  met  with  heavy  streams  from  the 
outside  to  drive  the  fire  back,  using  a  water  tower,  mast, 
deck  or  turret  pipe,  or  if  none  of  these  be  available  a  street 
pipe  may  be  employed,  though  these  should  be  shut  off 
when  the  flames  have  ceased  to  spread  on  the  exterior.  To 
locate  and  confine  a  fire  to  the  smallest  possible  area  is 
one  of  the  first  great  principles  of  fire-fighting.  As  it  is 
the  tendency  of  flames  to  burn  upwards,  care  must  be  exer- 
cised and  attention  given  to  the  floors  above  the  outbreak, 
though  it  should  be  understood  that  the  floors  below  should 
not  be  neglected. 

Fire-brands  often  fall  through  an  elevator  shaft,  or  other 
vertical  openings,  and  start  a  blaze  in  the  story  below,  so 
that  attention  must  be  given  to  all  parts  of  the  building 
involved  and  even  to  adjoining  houses.  Before  leaving  the 
scene  of  an  outbreak  the  greatest  care  should  be  taken  to 
see  that  all  fire  is  really  extinguished,  since  sometimes  there 
is  a  tendency  to  overlook  odd  corners,  resulting  in  a  recall 
to  the  scene  later  in  the  day,  an  incident  all  fire-fighters 
regard  as  in  some  degree  a  reflection  on  their  skill  and 


286  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

often  causing  embarrassing  questions.  A  new  style  of 
apartment  house  is  being  erected  in  New  York  City  and 
elsewhere,  divided  into  so-called  "Duplex"  flats.  Each  of 
these  has  one  main  entrance  from  the  stair  and  elevator 
hall,  while  its  upper  floor  is  reached  by  an  inner  staircase 
with  no  means  of  direct  exit  to  the  main  hall  outside.  In 
other  words,  it  resembles  a  two-story  house  within  another 
house.  There  are  no  outside  fire  escapes,  no  means  of 
reaching  the  upper  floor  except  by  way  of  the  inside  stairs, 
and,  should  a  fire  occur,  the  heat  and  smoke  would  imme- 
diately ascend  and  all  escape  from  the  upper  floor  would 
be  cut  off.  Firemen  would  be  obliged  to  enter  the  apart- 
ment by  the  one  door  leading  to  the  elevator  and  would 
find  that  the  flames  had  already  extended  to  the  floor  above. 
Two  lines  would  be  stretched  either  up  the  stairs  or,  if  it 
be  a  building  more  than  eighty-five  feet  high  and  the  fire  is 
above  the  fourth  floor,  from  the  stand-pipes,  the  engine 
being  connected  to  the  Siamese  at  street  level.  The  first 
line  should  be  opened  on  the  fire  to  clear  the  way  to  the 
inner  stairs,  the  second  line  should  also  be  brought  into 
play  to  kill  the  fire  on  the  lower  floor  and  to  cover  the 
first  line  which  should  try  to  ascend.  This  may  be  almost 
impossible,  as  the  heat  and  smoke  will  be  confined  above, 
unless  the  outbreak  is  of  sufficient  magnitude  to  melt  the 
windows  or  blow  them  out,  and  if  this  occurs  the  contents 
of  that  apartment  will  be  destroyed.  To  ventilate  the  upper 
floor  is  the  problem  before  the  officer  in  command  and 
the  only  method  of  so  doing  is  to  use  the  hook  of  a  scaling 
ladder  or  a  telescope  hook  which  has  recently  been  designed 
for  just  such  cases.  When  this  has  been  done  it  will  be 
possible  to  get  the  lines  up  the  stairs. 

Should  the  fire  occur  on  the  upper  story  it  would  back 
down  and  charge  the  lower  floor  with  smoke,  with  a  similar 
result.  This  type  of  building,  while  admittedly  convenient 
for  tenants,  is  most  dangerous  in  case  of  fire,  and  people 
may  be  trapped  twelve  stories  above  the  street.  Personal 
risk  can  be  obviated  to  a  great  extent  by  connecting  each 
floor  by  means  of  a  balcony  fire  escape  on  the  inner  court. 


FIRE  STRATEGY  IN  HOMES  OF  PEOPLE    287 

In  cases  where  it  is  impossible  to  attack  the  upper  floor 
by  way  of  the  stair,  the  terra  cotta  partition  dividing  the 
apartment  from  the  hall  should  be  broken  through  on  a 
level  with  the  upper  story.  This  is  not  a  very  difficult  mat- 
ter and  a  hole  large  enough  to  admit  a  man  would  soon 
be  made,  and  a  charged  line  should  be  introduced.  After 
the  room  is  cooled  it  may  then  be  possible  to  effect  an  en- 
trance, when  the  line  should  be  directed  towards  the  stairs 
in  order  that  communication  with  the  floor  below  may  be 
reestablished,  and  a  thorough  search  for  possible  occupants 
should  be  made. 

It  is  remarkable  how  much  more  latitude  is  al- 
lowed in  designing  private  dwellings  than  is  given 
architects  in  plans  for  tenements,  apartment  houses  and 
hotels,  and  many  disastrous  fires,  often  attended  with  loss 
of  life,  occur  in  such  structures.  A  common  defect  is  the 
large  open  stairway,  and  elevators  have  recently  been  in- 
troduced reaching  usually  to  the  top  floor  and  capped  with 
a  four  or  six  inch  stone  slab,  which,  from  the  standpoint 
of  fire  control  is  an  extremely  dangerous  form  of  construc- 
tion, as,  should  an  outbreak  occur,  the  flames  will  quickly 
ascend  the  shaft  and  having  no  outlet  through  the  roof, 
will  inevitably  mushroom  on  the  upper  floors,  thereby 
entailing  possible  loss  of  life.  Such  a  thing  as  fire  in  any 
part  of  a  house  except  in  the  furnace  is  not  thought  proba- 
ble or  even  possible,  so  when  the  unexpected  happens  great 
masses  of  draperies,  carpets  and  heavily  upholstered  furni- 
ture soon  turn  the  building  into  a  roaring  volcano  of  flame. 
Many  dwellings  of  the  wealthy  stand  in  an  enclosure,  often 
surrounded  by  high  iron  railings,  making  it  particularly 
difficult  to  get  any  kind  of  ladder  near  enough  to  be  of 
service.  This  class  of  structure  has  no  outside  fire  escapes 
which  increases  the  peril  of  people  trapped  on  the  upper 
floors.  In  such  a  case  a  person  should  never  attempt  to 
descend  the  stairs,  but  should,  if  possible,  reach  a  front 
window,  or  any  that  can  be  found  smoke  free  and  call  for 
help.  Every  minute  of  waiting  may  seem  an  hour,  but 
some  one  in  the  neighbourhood  will  assuredly  turn  in  an 


• 


288  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

alarm.  Above  all,  remember  that  jumping  is  the  last  resort 
of  the  desperate  and,  if  driven  to  the  final  extremity,  sheets, 
curtains  or  blankets  will  provide  some  sort  of  assistance 
towards  reaching  the  ground. 

On  his  arrival,  the  commander  of  the  fire  forces  should 
at  once  stretch  a  line,  taking  it  in  through  the  main  en- 
trance and  driving  the  fire  away  from  the  stairs.  If,  by 
this  time,  the  flames  have  forestalled  such  an  attempt,  all 
speed  should  be  used  to  follow  in  its  path  and  should  there 
be  a  back  stairway  this  should  be  covered  in  the  same 
manner.  It  takes  but  a  few  seconds  to  make  a  survey 
and  to  see  in  which  direction  the  fire  is  spreading,  when 
it  should  be  outflanked  with  all  rapidity  and  its  progress 
stopped.  The  building  should  be  at  once  "covered"  with 
ladders,  for  while  no  persons  may  be  visible  some  may 
appear  at  any  moment.  An  extension  ladder  should  im- 
mediately be  raised,  if  the  fire  has  control  of  the  stairway, 
in  order  that  a  line  may  be  taken  through  an  upper  floor 
window  to  cut  off  the  advance  of  the  flames.  Men  should 
be  sent  to  the  upper  floors  to  ventilate  the  rooms  and  to 
search  for  persons  who  may  have  been  overcome.  The 
size  of  the  house  and  the  extent  of  the  fire  should  be  the 
guide  to  a  Chief  on  his  arrival  in  summoning  additional 
aid,  and  no  time  should  be  lost  in  sending  in  further  alarms 
where  conditions  are  dangerous.  It  is  earnestly  suggested 
that  owners  should  equip  their  homes  with  a  few  fire  ex- 
tinguishers to  be  used  pending  the  arrival  of  the  firemen, 
and  it  may  be  added  that  draperies  are  a  prolific  source 
of  danger.  The  first  floor  at  least  should  be  fireproof,  and 
in  case  of  an  outbreak  in  the  living  rooms,  curtains  should 
be  torn  down  and  the  fire  trampled  out  or  beaten  with 
rugs,  using  any  means  to  hold  it  in  check  until  the  arrival 
of  the  trained  fire-fighters. 

Telephones  as  means  of  sending  in  alarms  are  untrust- 
worthy, as  under  such  circumstances  excitement  is  liable  to 
cause  the  message  to  be  misunderstood,  and  in  the  case  of 
town  houses  there  is  nearly  always  an  alarm  box  in  the 
vicinity. 


LEAVING  FOB  A  FIRE. 


FIRE  STRATEGY  IN  HOMES  OF  PEOPLE    289 

The  most  dangerous  fires  in  private  dwellings  usually 
occur  at  night  after  the  occupants  have  retired,  and  as  the 
bedrooms  are  generally  on  the  upper  floors  the  premises 
should  be  thoroughly  searched  the  last  thing  at  night  by 
the  owner  or  some  responsible  person,  and  if  electricity 
is  used  as  a  means  of  lighting  the  wiring  should  be  fre- 
quently examined.  Both  owners  and  architects  are  loth  to 
extend  an  elevator  shaft  above  the  house,  because  of  the 
inartistic  effect  of  having  an  unsightly  object  protrude 
through  the  roof,  but  the  shaft  could  be  connected  by  a 
fireproof  flue  to  one  in  the  chimney  which  would  carry 
smoke  and  fire  over  the  roofs  and  ventilate  the  floors,  thus 
giving  the  occupants  a  chance  of  escape.  There  also  ap- 
pears no  reason  why  the  sprinkler  system  should  not  be  in- 
stalled in  houses  which  possess  elevators,  in  order  that  in 
the  event  of  a  fire,  sprinkler  heads  might  operate  in  the 
shaft  and  prevent  the  upward  trend  of  the  blaze.  In  all 
the  foregoing  classes  of  buildings  fire  is  always  necessarily 
a  great  menace  to  their  tenants  and  deaths  may  result  from 
the  smallest  of  outbreaks  in  a  crowded  tenement  or  in  a 
great  mansion.  It  seldom  happens,  however,  that  the  life 
lost  is  that  of  a  fireman,  with  the  possible  exception  that 
he  may  be  suffocated  by  escaping  gas  in  cellars.  Here  lies 
one  of  the  greatest  dangers  to  the  force,  and  gas  should 
promptly  be  shut  off  from  the  building  involved,  especially 
when  the  fire  has  begun  in,  or  has  spread  to,  the  basement. 
The  above  instructions  are  not  difficult  to  comprehend  or  to 
carry  out,  that  is  to  say  as  applied  to  the  layman,  all  that  is 
demanded  is  a  minimum  of  coolness  and  the  avoidance  of 
panic  amongst  strangers  who  may  be  on  the  scene  and 
are  unaccustomed  to  the  realization  of  the  dangers  of  un- 
considered  action.  Of  course,  in  large  country  houses  re- 
mote from  any  professional  fire- fight  ing  force,  a  private 
brigade  should  always  be  formed  from  workmen  on  the 
estate.  It  is  not  difficult  to  instruct  them  in  the  efficient 
use  of  simple  apparatus,  while  prompt  and  timely  action 
would  in  many  cases  save  fine  old  mansions  of  historic 
interest,  which  alas !  are  annually  lost  by  fire.  Granted  their 


290  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

construction  is  faulty  and  that  the  architects  of  three  cen- 
turies ago  neglected  to  consider  fire  risks,  still  even  so, 
it  is  an  error  to  give  up  the  battle  as  lost  before  firing 
a  shot. 


CHAPTER  XX 
"QUICK  BURNERS" 

IN  Europe  no  less  than  350  years  have  been  spent  in 
building  some  churches,  while  in  America  350  churches 
are  built  in  one  year. 

There,  in  succinct  form,  lies  the  cardinal  difference 
between  European  and  American  construction,  and  it  is 
this  latter  which  possesses  a  profound  significance  for  the 
fire-fighter.  In  the  ancient  cities  of  the  old  world,  from 
time  immemorial,  stone  has  played  the  chief  part  in  the 
erection  of  buildings,  with  brick  in  recent  years  as  a  good 
second. 

But  in  America  use  has  been  naturally  made  of  that 
material  most  ready  to  hand, — wood;  and  thus  it  is  that 
the  fire  risk  has  grown  proportionately  to  the  population 
and  the  birth  of  new  towns,  both  of  which  have  been 
inordinately  rapid  and  necessitating  in  their  turn  celerity 
of  construction  to  meet  the  ever  increasing  demands  of 
the  situation.  Further,  a  man  will  decide  to  build  a 
mansion  for  himself,  premises  for  his  business  or  a  factory 
for  the  production  of  some  commercial  article.  He  buys  a 
plot  of  ground,  selects  an  architect,  chooses  a  set  of  plans 
and  specifications,  lets  out  the  contract  and  is  in  occupation 
1 20  days  after  he  first  conceived  the  idea.  Hustle  with 
a  capital  "H"  is  the  keynote  of  the  scheme,  and  any  ques- 
tions of  fire  control,  appropriateness  of  design  or  struc- 
tural stability  are  all  swamped  in  one  wild  desire  for  haste 
and  the  speedy  completion  of  the  order. 

Contrast  this  picture  with  European  methods,  where  the 
individual  breaks  fresh  ground  only  after  months,  maybe 

291 


292  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

years,  of  careful  consideration,  and  where  the  great  grand- 
son places  the  finishing  touches  to  the  conception  of  his 
forbears.  Again,  take  the  ingredients  commonly  in  use 
for  ^the  mixing  of  mortar,  that  most  essential  adjunct  to 
building  operations.  The  writer  has  seen  in  Europe  pails 
of  animal  blood  and  hair  combined  with  the  finest  lime  and 
sand,  it  having  long  ago  been  recognized  that  the  binding 
qualities  of  this  compound  are  unsurpassed.  In  America, 
it  is  often  thought  sufficient  to  employ  mud  with  a  sprink- 
ling of  cement,  which  may  be  cheap  but  distinctly  savors 
of  "jerry  building." 

It  has  sometimes  happened  that  whole  rows  of  buildings 
have  collapsed  because  of  the  inferiority  of  the  materials 
used  in  their  erection,  and  often  weeks  after  bricks  have 
been  laid  in  this  mud  mortar  two  fingers  would  suffice  to 
pull  them  from  the  wall.  True,  some  improvement  has 
taken  place  of  late,  but  the  buildings  of  the  type  mentioned, 
carelessly  finished  within  and  without,  provide  that  class 
of  construction  generally  described  as  "quick  burners." 

While  on  the  subject  it  may  also  be  remarked  that  when 
a  stipulation  is  made  in  a  building  contract  for  "fireproof 
wood  and  finishings,"  the  prospective  owner  of  the  premises 
seldom  realizes  that  wood  so  treated  loses  its  fire-resistant 
qualities  from  atmospheric  moisture  in  a  few  years,  while 
hard  wood  will  only  absorb  35  per  cent,  of  the  solution 
and  maple  none  at  all. 

In  discussing  fire  strategy  in  lofts  and  commercial  build- 
ings entirely  new  conditions  present  themselves  to  those 
previously  considered  under  the  title  "Fire  Strategy  in 
the  Homes  of  the  People."  The  former  structures  have 
large  floor  areas,  usually  heavily  stocked  with  what  may 
prove  to  be  combustible  material,  and  in  many  cases  open 
stairways  and  elevator  shafts,  added  to  light  shafts  be- 
tween two  buildings,  enhance  the  danger  and  the  difficulty 
of  efficient  fire  control.  Bold  indeed  would  be  the  officer 
who  would  attempt  to  lay  down  a  set  of  strategic  rules  for 
fighting  fires  in  places  of  this  type,  as  so  many  factors 
enter  into  the  problem  that  a  prearranged  attack  is  im- 


"QUICK   BURNERS"  293 

possible.  The  fate  of  nations  has  often  been  decided  by 
a  successful  or  a  disastrous  campaign,  worked  out  by  a 
military  genius  of  the  "Headquarters  Staff,"  and  it  is 
related  of  Field  Marshal  Moltke  that,  on  war  being  de- 
clared between  France  and  Germany,  he  sent  a  telegram 
and  went  to  bed;  every  possible  detail  of  the  war  having 
been  prepared  months  or  possibly  years  in  advance,  even 
to  the  number  of  cups  of  coffee  required  at  Cologne  rail- 
way station  for  the  arriving  troops.  Fire  Chiefs  must 
evolve  their  plans  on  the  instant  for  they  cannot  calculate 
beforehand  the  strength  of  the  enemy.  Furthermore  "fire" 
is  the  only  adversary  which  on  the  battlefield  steadily  in- 
creases in  strength  in  the  exact  mathematical  proportion 
of  the  resistance  it  meets,  until  the  point  is  reached  when 
it  is  actually  held  in  check.  This  emphasizes  the  part 
played  in  modern  fire-fighting  by  promptness  of  decision, 
good  judgment  and  rapid  action  on  the  part  of  those  in 
command.  Hence  it  can  be  realized  that  the  mere  theore- 
tician stands  a  poor  chance  of  acquitting  himself  creditably 
and  that  it  is  practice  which  tells. 

But  notwithstanding  these  factors,  there  are  a  few 
general  rules  which  can  and  must  be  applied  under  any 
conditions.  On  arriving  at  the  scene  of  an  outbreak  in  a 
commercial  building  of  the  "quick-burner"  type,  the  officer 
in  command  should  be  able  to  tell  at  a  glance  its  height, 
width,  depth  and  style  of  construction,  and  for  this  one 
moment  should  be  sufficient.  Here  is  a  most  important 
point,  for  no  matter  to  what  part  of  the  building  the  com- 
mander may  be  obliged  to  go  thereafter,  he  has  a  correct 
map  of  it  and  its  surroundings  in  his  mind's  eye. 

The  next  step  is  correctly  to  locate  the  seat  of  the  fire, 
which  can  only  be  done  by  an  instinct  fostered  by  long 
training  and  experience,  which  becomes  a  sort  of  sixth 
sense  and  is  therefore  outside  the  boundary  of  rules  and 
regulations.  Some  possess  this  faculty  to  a  marked  degree, 
while  others  seem  to  lack  it  utterly  and,  like  an  ear  for 
music,  it  cannot  be  acquired  though  it  may  be  enhanced 
and  quickened  by  practice.  Approaching  the  problem 


294  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

under  consideration  from  a  broad  standpoint,  the  plan  of 
attack  depends  upon  the  condition  of  the  building  and  the 
extent  of  the  fire  upon  the  arrival  of  the  first  assignment. 
If  the  outbreak  is  on  one  floor  only,  a  line  forced  up  the 
stairs  to  its  origin  may  be  sufficient,  and  it  should  be  added 
that  this  line  usually  extinguishes  more  fires  than  the  three 
or  four  which  follow.  In  fact,  it  may  be  hazarded  that 
75  times  out  of  a  hundred  this  will  be  all  that  is  necessary. 
Should  the  flames  be  found  to  have  control  of  several 
floors,  the  force  should  be  deployed  in  such  a  manner  as 
to  confine  the  fire  to  the  area  it  has  already  invaded,  and 
should  it  be  impossible  to  enter  the  building  a  water  tower 
may  be  brought  into  action  to  cover  the  front,  though  the 
street  is  usually  wide  enough  to  obviate  all  danger  of  fire 
crossing  and  igniting  structures  on  the  other  side.  The 
rear  also  must  be  covered  as  there  is  infinitely  more  risk 
of  the  flames  spreading  to  adjoining  premises  at  that  point, 
for  such  buildings  are  often  within  ten  feet  of  each  other. 
Should  a  fire  burst  out  of  the  rear  windows  it  will  instantly 
cross  this  narrow  space  and,  if  not  driven  back  by  lines  in 
the  buildings  behind,  they  too  will  ignite. 

Should  a  condition  of  this  nature  confront  the  chief  on 
his  arrival,  he  should  immediately  summon  additional  aid 
and  a  common  fault  with  some  subordinate  officers,  which 
may  cause  fatal  delay,  is  to  postpone  the  transmission  of 
further  alarms.  Precious  moments  are  consumed  before 
the  fresh  assignments  can  reach  the  scene  and  the  fire  has 
gained  control.  Therefore  it  must  be  reiterated  that  a 
correct  estimate  of  conditions  to  be  met  is  of  vast  impor- 
tance. Once  the  rear  of  the  building  is  covered  the  side 
exposures  must  be  protected  as  there  are  four  sides  to  a 
fire  and  the  one  to  leeward  is  naturally  the  most  dangerous. 
Seldom  does  a  fire  work  to  windward  as  it  did  in  the  case 
of  the  Equitable  and  hence  a  line  or  two  should  be  stretched 
to  leeward,  the  probable  route  of  the  flames. 

When  control  of  the  outbreak  is  assured,  with  front, 
rear  and  sides  covered,  it  may  be  possible  to  enter  the 
building  unless  it  be  old  and  heavily  stocked.  Should  there 


"QUICK  BURNERS"  295 

be  fire  escapes  on  the  front,  lines  can  be  sent  up  by  this 
means  under  cover  of  the  water  tower  and  turret  pipes, 
and  if  lines  are  sent  up  the  stairs  the  roof  should  be 
opened.  This  latter  is  a  prime  requisite  to  relieve  the 
building  of  accumulated  heat  and  gas  which  might  explode 
and  would  certainly  seriously  hinder  the  actions  of  the 
firemen.  As  soon  as  the  lines  ascending  the  stairs  and  fire 
escapes  have  gained  a  foothold  in  the  structure,  the  tower 
and  turret  pipes  should  be  shut  off,  as  there  is  no  object 
in  flooding  the  floors  if  the  inside  lines  can  control  the 
flames.  At  this  time  the  force  in  the  rear  should  be  ad- 
vanced across  the  space  and  effect  an  entrance.  Every- 
thing now  would  depend  upon  the  condition  of  the  build- 
ing, for  as  a  physician  skillfully  prescribes  to  suit  the 
strength  of  his  patient,  so  must  the  Chief  cautiously  ad- 
vance according  to  the  strength  of  the  structure.  If  it  is 
weak  and  tottering  after  a  fire  such  as  has  been  described, 
and  furthermore  contains  stock  that  has  absorbed  a  quan- 
tity of  water  thereby  adding  greater  weight  than  perhaps 
the  supports  were  intended  to  stand,  men  should  pick  their 
way;  and  if  there  is  great  doubt  of  its  stability  lives  should 
not  be  risked  until  floors  are  relieved  of  all  possible  weight. 
Many  deaths  have  been  caused  by  the  collapse  of  weakened 
buildings  during  what  firemen  technically  term,  "washing 
down."  As  the  first  word  was  celerity  the  last  word  must 
be  caution,  for  since  the  fire  is  practically  extinguished 
there  is  no  necessity  to  risk  valuable  lives. 

The  fire  protection  of  bonded  warehouses  offers  a  curious 
problem.  They  may  not  inaptly  be  described  as  quick 
burners  since  their  construction  the  world  over  is  on  the 
same  lines  and  apparently  framed  with  no  consideration  of 
fire  risks.  For  obvious  reasons,  outside  fire  escapes  are 
barred,  the  presumption  being  that  their  presence  might 
encourage  the  enterprising  burglar  or  smuggler.  Similarly 
the  floors  are  of  limited  height,  often  with  insufficient 
ventilation,  economy  of  space  counting  for  more  than 
economy  of  fire  risk.  Which  all  seems  futile  and  the  re- 
verse of  far-sighted,  though  it  has  grown  to  be  a  com- 


296  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

monplace  that  Governments  are  far  behind  municipalities 
in  dealing  with  those  common  sense  features  which  are  so 
largely  responsible  for  the  safety  and  convenience  of 
modern  life.  In  Germany,  it  is  true,  the  matter  has  received 
consideration  and  warehouses  are  constructed  in  such  a 
manner  that  the  minimum  of  damage  is  done  to  bonded 
goods,  in  the  event  of  a  fire,  by  having  the  floors  raked 
and  by  the  structures  themselves  being  built  upon  the  most 
approved  designs.  But  this  refers  only  to  recently  erected 
warehouses,  notably  in  Hamburg  and  Bremen. 

Now  it  goes  without  saying  that  as  a  rule  the  contents 
of  these  buildings  are  highly  inflammable  and  hence  every 
scientific  nerve  should  be  strained  toward  the  adoption  of 
some  form  of  fire  control,  which  shall  meet  the  immediate 
demands  of  the  situation.  The  sprinkler  system  naturally 
suggests  itself  as  the  remedy,  but  here  questions  of  space 
step  in,  since  the  nozzles  of  sprinklers  are  always  of  a 
certain  length  and  hanging  from  the  ceiling  would  take 
up  valuable  room,  let  alone  being  peculiarly  liable  to  damage 
during  the  shifting  of  goods.  An  alternative  scheme  has 
been  evolved  by  the  writer,  which  if  not  perfect,  at  any  rate 
offers  some  feasible  method  of  meeting  the  danger  of  fire 
and  in  construction  is  of  a  simplicity  which  speaks  for 
itself.  It  has  been  christened  the  "Manifold  system." 
Near  the  front  entrance  should  be  located  a  number  of 
valves  equal  to  the  sum  of  the  stories  in  the  building. 
These  should  have  pipe  connections  to  each  floor  the 
nozzles  of  the  same  being  finished  just  below  the  level  of 
the  ceilings  and  furnished  with  revolving  sprays  operated 
by  water  pressure.  Most  laymen  are  acquainted  with  the 
ordinary  spray  used  on  tennis  lawns  and  grass  plots;  the 
principle  is  precisely  similar.  Upon  an  alarm  of  fire  all 
that  would  be  necessary  would  be  for  the  officer  in  charge 
to  ascertain  the  location  of  the  outbreak  and  in  case  he 
could  not  reach  it  with  a  line  of  hose  promptly  to  turn  on 
the  valve  controlling  the  nozzles  of  that  particular  floor. 
The  pressure  would  naturally  be  obtained  from  fire  en- 
gines, high  pressure  mains  or,  if  sufficient,  from  the 


"QUICK   BURNERS"  297 

street  mains,  though  in  cases  where  there  was  an  installa- 
tion of  the  high  pressure  system,  the  latter  would  be  ad- 
vantageous. In  any  event  the  fire  would  speedily  be 
damped  down  admitting  of  the  access  of  firemen  to  the 
building,  while  in  many  instances  such  means  might  in  it- 
self be  sufficient  to  prevent  further  mischief. 

This  system  of  automatic  fire-fighting  is  only  in  its 
infancy  and  the  march  of  science  will  undoubtedly  bring  in 
its  train  increased  efficiency  of  apparatus  employed  and  the 
lessened  possibility  of  its  operating  out  of  season,  which 
sometimes  occurs  with  the  sprinkler  installation.  There 
is  a  crying  need  for  the  perfection  of  the  self-acting  fire- 
fighter, since  in  spite  of  modern  fire  resistive  tactics,  the 
enemy  has  itself  kept  abreast  of  the  times  and  each  new 
preventive  method  is  offset  by  the  introduction  of  some 
fresh  element,  which  promises  a  splendid  stimulant  to  the 
appetite  of  the  flames.  Thus  the  introduction  of  the  auto- 
mobile has  led  to  the  common  use  of  gasoline,  in  itself 
highly  inflammable  and  demanding  special  methods  of 
storage.  Scarcity  of  coal  has  turned  the  mind  of  the 
inventor  toward  the  use  of  liquid  fuel,  while  the  advance 
of  the  photographic  art  has  been  responsible  for  the  intro- 
duction of  the  cinematograph  with  its  celluloid  film.  Most 
assuredly  has  this  form  of  amusement  come  to  stay,  but 
equally  its  advent  has  not  been  an  unmixed  blessing  to  the 
fire-fighter  since  the  dangers  connected  with  its  operation 
are  so  diverse  and  ever  present  that  special  precautions  to 
meet  the  same  have  ever  to  be  framed.  And  thus  it  is 
along  all  lines  of  advance;  if  the  human  brain  is  never 
idle,  then  most  assuredly  the  fire  fiend  is  never  quiescent 
and  is  prompt  to  seize  upon  fresh  opportunities  of  attack. 

Hence  in  considering  "quick  burners"  as  a  whole,  it 
may  not  be  inappropriate  to  include  a  few  words  anent 
the  moving  picture  peril,  since  in  all  truth  this  strikes  at 
the  foundations  of  the  social  system  owing  to  the  number 
of  children  who  habitually  frequent  such  places  of  amuse- 
ment. Now,  in  the  first  place,  if  a  panic  in  a  theatre  is  a 
tragedy,  then  a  panic  in  a  moving  picture  hall  is  doubly 


298  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

so,  since  it  is  hopeless  to  appeal  to  the  self-control  of  the 
audience  and  the  strong  chances  are  that  once  a  rush  for 
the  exits  begins,  nothing  will  prevent  confusion  and  crush- 
ing. Aisle  guards  can  accomplish  little  if  the  principles 
concerned  are  not,  in  the  bulk,  amenable  to  the  dictates  of 
reason  and  if  old  heads  are  not  to  be  found  on  young 
shoulders  and  if  amongst  the  former  panic  is  not  uncom- 
mon, what  then  can  be  expected  from  the  latter? 

Hence  it  is  that  the  picture  palace  should  be  as  fire  secure 
as  human  knowledge  can  make  it,  which,  in  spite  of  munici- 
pal regulations,  is  seldom  the  case.  From  the  nature  of 
the  entertainment  apart  from  the  actual  apparatus,  all  that 
is  required  is  a  white  sheet  upon  which  the  pictures  are 
displayed  and  thus  practically  any  sort  of  hall  will  meet 
the  case.  Old  churches,  disused  stables,  deserted  chapels, 
in  fact  any  building  which  is  good  for  nothing  else  is  im- 
pressed into  the  service  and  with  a  coat  or  two  of  paint 
blossoms  forth  under  a  new  guise  as  a  "picture  palace." 
So  long  as  the  requirements  of  the  municipality  have  been 
fulfilled,  there  is  no  cause  for  interference  and  so  it  con- 
tinues to  thrive  until  the  day  comes  and  fire  sweeps  along 
laying  it  low  like  so  much  match  wood  and  demanding  a 
heavy  death  roll  of  women  and  children. 

Now,  there  is  one  point  in  this  connection,  which,  small 
in  itself,  is  really  the  kernel  of  the  situation.  Ninety  per 
cent,  of  film  fires  occur  in  the  immediate  vicinity  of  the 
operator  and  yet  the  observant  will  have  noticed  that 
nearly  always  the  box  containing  the  apparatus  is  over 
the  entrance  door  or,  where  there  are  several  doors,  at  the 
end  of  the  hall  where  the  entrances,  which  often  serve  as 
exits,  are  situated.  There  is  no  sufficient  reason  for  this 
and  it  would  be  just  as  convenient  from  a  managerial 
point  of  view  were  the  position  reversed  and  the  apparatus 
located  at  the  end  of  the  structure  remote  from  the  entrance. 
The  reason  for  this  alteration  is  obvious.  In  the  event  of 
a  fire,  at  present,  the  audience  is  obliged  to  pass  out,  either 
alongside  or  underneath  the  probable  seat  of  an  outbreak, 
an  unpleasant  and  dangerous  task  for  grown  people,  an 


"QUICK   BURNERS"  299 

impossible  one  for  children  of  tender  years.  Now  it  will 
be  argued  that  the  adoption  of  such  an  arrangement  would 
spoil  the  performance,  since  the  shadows  of  incoming  pa- 
trons using  the  centre  aisle  would  be  reflected  upon  the 
picture  curtain.  The  answer  to  this  objection  is  apparent. 
It  would  be  an  excellent  move  if  the  centre  aisle  should  be 
used  solely  as  an  emergency  exit,  sufficient  width  being 
allowed  to  the  side  aisles  to  render  both  ingress  and  egress 
easy. 

There  are,  of  course,  many  other  structures,  which 
from  the  nature  of  the  trades  carried  on  within  may  be 
said  well  to  merit  the  epithet  "quick  burner."  In  fact,  in 
such  cases  it  is  a  question  of  contents  rather  than  con- 
struction, and  in  this  connection  a  special  chapter  has  been 
devoted  to  the  consideration  of  the  storage  of  gasoline  and 
the  garage  peril.  There  are,  however,  apparently  harmless 
factories  which  provide  the  wherewithal  for  dangerous 
explosions,  and  it  will  be  well  to  give  some  slight  con- 
sideration to  these.  For  the  benefit  of  the  layman,  the  sim- 
plest course  will  be  to  supply  an  illustrative  parallel.  Take 
an  ordinary  log  and  try  to  burn  it.  Short  of  placing  it 
in  a  furnace  it  is  next  door  to  impossible  to  incinerate  it. 
Even  after  a  severe  fire,  hard-wood  beams  of  some  thick- 
ness are  rarely  burnt  through,  though  naturally  their  out- 
side surface  is  charred  perhaps  to  the  depth  of  an  inch  or 
two.  But  split  the  log  and  its  component  parts  will  burn 
more  readily,  while  the  smaller  it  is  chopped  the  easier  it 
catches  alight,  until  the  point  arrives  when  it  makes  ex- 
cellent kindling.  Reduce  the  log  still  further  and  it 
becomes  sawdust,  which  is  not  only  highly  inflammable 
but  under  certain  conditions  actually  explosive.  Hence  it 
follows  that  the  greatest  precautions  must  be  adopted  in 
all  factories  or  warehouses  in  which  large  amounts  of 
sawdust  are  liable  to  collect.  This  doctrine  may  be  ex- 
tended, and  might  not  inaptly  be  termed  "the  dust  danger/' 

Flour,  ground  grain  of  any  kind,  all  belong  to  the  same 
category,  and  offer  the  same  risks.  Therefore  let  every 
manufacturer  or  warehouse  man  beware  of  accumulated 


4 


300  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

dust  which,  should  the  slightest  outbreak  of  fire  occur, 
will  become  a  potential  explosive.  Incidently,  there  is  no 
reason  why  factories  of  the  nature  mentioned  should  not 
be  kept  clear  of  this  menace,  as,  in  so  many  other  instances 
of  aggravated  fire  risks,  they  are  as  often  as  not  directly 
accountable  to  the  element  of  carelessness  inherent  in  hu- 
man nature. 

It  may  come  as  something  of  a  shock  to  the  lay  reader 
to  know  that  drug  stores,  or  chemists'  shops  as  they  are 
called  in  England,  are  amongst  the  most  difficult  problems 
the  fire-fighter  has  to  handle.  Heavily  stocked  with  all 
sorts  of  acids  and  alkalies,  no  chemist  on  earth  can  pre- 
cisely foretell  what  results  may  not  follow  upon  some 
unforeseen  chemical  combination.  An  explosion  may 
occur  capable  of  wrecking  a  whole  block  of  buildings,  as 
was  the  case  in  the  Tarrant  Building  in  New  York  in  the 
year  1902,  or,  poisonous  fumes  may  be  generated  which 
will  render  it  almost  impossible  for  firemen  to  operate 
within  a  considerable  radius  of  the  spot,  unless  equipped 
with  smoke  helmets.  It  is  no  exaggeration  to  say,  that  the 
harmless  looking  little  drug  store  at  the  corner  of  the 
street,  is  a  factor  of  such  danger  that  in  New  York  city 
special  regulations  have  been  framed  for  fire  prevention  in 
such  establishments. 

For  consider  the  perilous  possibilities  of  such  a  common 
chemical  as  chlorate  of  potash,  an  excellent  remedy  for 
sore  throats  and  coughs,  and  under  certain  conditions  of  the 
greatest  medicinal  value.  Yet  the  following  details  of  the 
peculiar  activities  of  this  substance  cannot  fail  to  supply 
food  for  thought,  when  it  is  remembered  that  its  charac- 
teristics are  not  uncommonly  met  with  in  other  articles 
usually  supplied  by  the  local  druggist. 

Chlorate  of  potash  is  a  white  chrystalline  body  found  in 
commerce  in  crystals  or  in  a  powdered  form.  It  consists 
of  the  metal  "potassium"  and  the  gases  "chlorine"  and 
"oxygen,"  chemically  combined  to  form  a  potassium  salt 
of  chloric  acid.  The  proportion  of  oxygen  is  large  as 
compared  with  that  ordinarily  present  in  salts  and  is  very 


"QUICK   BURNERS"  301 

weakly  held  in  the  combination.  This  makes  chlorates  as  a 
class,  dangerous  compounds,  as  heat  alone  will  liberate 
the  oxygen,  leaving  behind  "potassium  chloride,"  a  com- 
pound similar  to  table  salt. 

Danger  arises  from  chlorate  of  potash  in  four  ways: 
(i)  When  mixed  or  in  contact  with  combustible  sub- 
stances and  ignited,  an  explosion  results  which  proceeds 
with  tremendous  energy  and  fierceness  making  a  bad  fire 
and  one  dangerous  to  fight.  This  violence  of  action  is  due 
to  the  liberation  of  pure  oxygen  which  immediately  attacks 
any  explosives  present.  (2)  When  mixed  or  in  contact 
with  combustibles  such  as  charcoal,  sulphur  or  sugar,  par- 
ticularly if  both  be  finely  divided,  and  abraded  or  struck 
the  result  will  be  an  explosion.  Spontaneous  explosions 
may  also  occur,  and  near  contact  between  chlorate  and 
yellow  or  stick  phosphorous  is  frequently  followed  by  a 
violent  explosion.  (3)  Strong  sulphuric  acid  in  contact 
with  a  chlorate  will  cause  it  to  decompose  and  to  give  off 
heavy  yellow  gases  which  are  explosive  by  even  slight 
shocks  or  by  contact  with  easily  oxidizable  material.  These 
gases  will  spontaneously  enflame  phosphorus,  turpentine 
and  other  substances.  (4)  From  the  inherent  character 
of  the  salt  itself. 

Chlorates,  for  theoretical  chemical  reasons,  are  in  one 
sense  unstable  compounds.  The  danger  from  the  third 
source  is  obvious,  although  it  is  not  imminent  from  the 
third  and  fourth  as  it  is  from  the  first  and  second.  In  the 
first  case,  it  will  be  seen  that  the  presence  of  any  consider- 
able quantity  of  chlorate  in  a  building  is  a  source  of  dan- 
ger. It  would  give  such  impetus  to  a  fire  when  once 
reached  as  to  make  the  destruction  of  the  property  almost 
certain.  When  heated  alone  it  gives  up  its  oxygen  quietly, 
but  in  the  presence  of  combustibles,  an  explosion  will  result 
from  the  rapid  generation  of  highly  heated  gases.  A  fall 
of  floors  or  of  shelves  might  scatter  the  chlorate  over  a 
large  surface  already  hot,  or  might  mix  it  with  highly  com- 
bustible materials  such  as  are  usually  present  in  drug- 
houses.  In  either  case  disastrous  explosions  will  occur. 


302.  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

In  the  case  of  the  disastrous  fire  already  mentioned  at 
Tarrant  &  Co.'s  warehouse,  one  of  the  great  wholesale 
chemical  houses  in  New  York,  this  is  what  probably  oc- 
curred since  tons  of  chlorate  and  sulphur  were  stored  on 
one  floor  and  the  ensuing  explosion  consequent  upon  the 
fire  completely  destroyed  the  building  and  several  others 
adjacent  to  it.  In  the  second  case  there  is  danger  from 
intimate  mixtures  of  chlorate  and  combustibles.  These 
will  be  found  almost  exclusively  in  torpedo  and  fireworks 
factories  and  have  the  explosive  force  of  dynamite  and 
guncotton  and  in  fact  may  be  placed  in  the  same  category. 
The  explosion  is  propagated  through  the  mass  by  shock 
and  is  practically  instantaneous,  while  in  gunpowder  there  is 
simply  a  very  rapid  combustion  generated  by  flame  or  heat 
alone.  For  full  effect  a  chlorate  powder  must  be  confined, 
or  in  such  quantity  as  to  produce  the  effect  of  confinement, 
in  the  mass.  In  case  of  carelessness,  such  mixture  could 
occur  in  small  amounts  in  any  drug  store  or  chemist  shop, 
and  if  stepped  upon  would  ignite.  The  danger  is,  that, 
while  the  explosion  in  unconfined  portions  of  such  mixture 
takes  place  usually  only  in  the  part  under  pressure,  the 
action  is  continued  in  the  remainder  of  the  mass  as  a 
fierce  and  very  rapid  combustion  resembling  that  of  fed 
Greek  fire. 

The  danger  in  the  fourth  case  is  a  doubtful  quantity, 
but  there  seems  to  be  some  grounds  for  belief  that  chlorate 
will,  of  itself,  decompose  with  explosive  violence,  if  ex- 
posed to  heat  and  shock  at  the  same  time.  Alone  and 
unmolested,  chlorate  is  a  perfectly  safe  and  stable  com- 
pound, and  the  peril  arises  from  surrounding  circumstances. 

This  brief  description  of  one  of  the  commonest  of  chemi- 
cal commodities  will  give  the  layman  some  idea  of  the 
precautions  which  should  be  adopted  to  prevent  fire  in  all 
drug  stores,  wholesale  and  retail,  and  in  New  York  this 
fact  has  led  to  the  adoption  of  a  detailed  standard  as  to 
the  amounts  of  dangerous  chemicals  which  may  be  stored 
on  licensed  premises.  In  the  first  place  those  entering  the 
chemical  business  must  obtain  a  permit  from  the  Fire 


"QUICK   BURNERS"  303 

Commissioner,  who,  with  the  Municipal  Explosives  Com- 
mission, considers  each  application  upon  its  individual 
merits.  In  the  event  of  any  disregard  of  regulations, 
licenses  may  be  immediately  revoked. 

The  following  are  some  of  the  details  of  the  regulations 
regarding  retail  drug  stores.  Firstly,  it  is  unlawful  to 
manufacture,  compound,  dispense  or  store  upon  such  prem- 
ises any  of  the  following  substances:  Colored  fire  in  any 
form,  flashlight  powders,  liquid  acetylene,  acetylide  of 
copper,  fulminates  or  fulminating  compounds,  guncotton, 
gunpowder,  chloride  of  nitrogen,  amide  or  amine  explo- 
sive, picrates,  or  rubber  shoddy. 

Potassium  chlorate  in  admixture  with  organic  sub- 
stances, phosphorous  or  sulphur  is  forbidden,  but  this  re- 
striction does  not  apply  to  the  manufacture  or  storage  of 
tablets  of  this  chemical,  when  intended  for  medicinal 
purposes.  Much  the  same  applies  to  nitroglycerine,  which 
is  rigidly  barred  except  in  medicinal  form,  as  approved  by 
the  National  Pharmacopcea. 

A  schedule  has  been  arranged,  limiting  the  amount  of 
combustible  chemicals  and  fibres,  some  of  which  it  may  be 
of  interest  to  quote.  Thus,  carbonic  acid  100  Ibs.,  collodion 
5  Ibs.,  turpentine  one  barrel,  essential  oil  100  Ibs.,  in  all, 
phosphorus  red  and  yellow  3  oz.,  magnesium  powder  and 
ribbon  16  oz.  in  all,  powdered  charcoal  10  Ibs.,  rosin  10 
Ibs.,  lint  10  Ibs.  in  closed  boxes,  potassium  permanganate 
5  Ibs.,  silver  nitrate  I  lb.,  glycerine  500  Ibs.  Hence  it  will 
be  seen  that  a  limit  is  set  upon  the  storage  of  even  the 
commonest  commodities,  due  regard  being  taken  of  their 
possible  combinations  in  the  event  of  accident  or  fire. 

The  next  official  regulation  might  well  find  a  place  in 
chemists'  shops  the  world  over.  "It  shall  be  unlawful  for 
any  person  to  store  or  accumulate  broken  wood,  waste 
paper,  or  waste  packing  material  of  any  kind  in  any  part 
of  the  premises  where  goods  are  packed  or  unpacked.  Such 
materials  should  be  removed  at  the  close  of  the  day." 

In  addition,  the  following  restriction  is  an  admirable  one, 
and  might  well  be  extended.  "It  shall  be  unlawful  for  any 


304  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

person  to  smoke  or  to  carry  a  lighted  cigar,  cigarette  or 
pipe,  or  any  lighted  substance,  within  a  packing  room,  cel- 
lar, store-room,  or  that  part  of  the  laboratory  where  vola- 
tile inflammable  oil  or  liquid  is  used  or  handled;  and  a 
notice  bearing  in  large  letters  the  words,  'SMOKING 
UNLAWFUL/  together  with  a  copy  of  this  section  in 
small  letters,  shall  be  conspicuously  displayed  in  one  or 
more  places  on  each  floor."  Furthermore,  basements  and 
cellars  must  be  properly  lighted  by  electricity,  and  persons 
neglecting  this  and  the  above  regulations  are  guilty  of 
misdemeanor. 

It  may  seem  to  some  that  these  ordinances  are  stringent 
to  the  extent  of  being  irksome,  but  it  cannot  be  too  strongly 
emphasized  that  the  every  day  fire  risks  of  a  community 
are  in  themselves  amply  sufficient  with  which  to  deal,  and 
that  those  exceptional  hazards  demand  exceptional  precau- 
tions owing  to  the  unknown  character  of  the  outbreak 
which  may  result  from  accidents  thereto. 

There  is  one  last  example  of  the  genus  "quick  burner," 
that  the  writer  would  like  to  mention.  There  is  a  craze 
nowadays,  in  all  parts  of  the  world,  for  the  small  suburban 
home,  which  with  its  ornamental  exterior,  tessellated  pave- 
ment and  brightly  painted  front  door,  appears  to  the  aver- 
age purchaser  an  epitome  of  desirability.  By  the  fire- 
fighter, however,  these  rows  of  jerry-built  cottages,  hastily 
run  up  by  an  unscrupulous  contractor,  are  rated  at  their 
true  value.  As  a  rule,  examination  will  show  that  there  is 
a  common  "bearing  wall"  between  each  two  houses,  rarely 
if  ever  extending  to  the  top  of  the  attic.  Thus,  the  whole 
length  of  these  attics,  unpartitioned  off  in  any  way,  forms  a 
huge  horizontal  flue  and  an  excellent  ally  to  the  flames. 

In  dealing  with  an  outbreak  of  fire  under  such  circum- 
stances, it  is  therefore  necessary  to  take  lines  in  six  or 
seven  houses  away  from  the  actual  scene  of  the  blaze,  in 
order  to  fight  the  flames  back  and  to  prevent  them  from 
gaining  complete  control  and  sweeping  all  before  them  like 
so  much  waste  paper.  The  structural  disabilities  of  such 
a  system  are  vexatious  enough  since  tenants  are  unable  to 


"QUICK   BURNERS"  305 

effect  any  architectural  alterations,  but  the  fire  risks  are  tre- 
mendous. It  is  another  example  of  that  get-rich-quick 
policy,  which  does  not  concern  itself  with  such  elemental 
factors  as  fire  risk  and  human  safety,  and  is  occupied 
solely  with  its  own  selfish  ends. 

In  fact  it  is  no  exaggeration  to  say  that  the  greater  por- 
tion of  fire  legislation  is  concerned  with  the  protection  of 
the  individual  against  the  egotistical  indifference  of  those 
who  are  ready  to  exploit  him.  Fire  resistive  construction 
costs  little  if  any  more  than  "jerry  building,"  due  regard 
being  taken  of  durability,  security  and  reputation,  though 
apparently  the  latter  counts  but  little  in  comparison  with 
lightly  earned  gold.  The  public,  however,  is  happily  com- 
mencing to  take  an  intelligent  interest  in  fire  control  and 
the  day  is  drawing  to  a  close  when  it  will  be  possible  to 
gull  the  unwary  by  means  of  cheap  ornamentation  and  a 
prolific  use  of  paint.  Or  perhaps  a  hint  might  be  taken 
from  Germany,  where  owner  and  occupier  are  held  jointly 
responsible  for  outbreaks  of  fire. 


CHAPTER  XXI 

THE   PROBLEM   OF  THE   SKYSCRAPER 

INCREASING  land  values  due  to  congestion  in  large  cities, 
coupled  with  advances  in  the  mechanical  arts  and  steel 
skeleton  construction  have  ushered  in  a  new  and  perplex- 
ing problem  for  the  fire-fighter.  In  American  cities  there 
is  no  restriction  placed  upon  the  height  to  which  an  office 
or  commercial  building  may  rise,  as  long  as  certain  regula- 
tions are  complied  with  in  regard  to  the  material  used. 
Height  is  not  prescribed  by  law,  but  by  economic  condi- 
tions. Were  it  possible  to  provide  inexpensive  elevator 
service,  there  is  no  reason  to  doubt  that  buildings  in  New 
York  would  now  have  a  hundred  stories  as  there  are  already 
several  with  forty,  and  one  with  fifty-seven,  floors.  In  the 
old  type  of  factory  or  commercial  building,  ranging  from 
one  to  six  stories,  the  ordinary  way  of  stretching  hose 
lines  by  stairs  and  fire  escapes  provided  all  the  necessary 
means  for  the  firemen  to  reach  the  seat  of  an  outbreak, 
but  in  these  higher  buildings  other  methods  had  to  be 
evolved.  Stand-pipes  running  from  the  lowest  to  the 
highest  floors  were  introduced.  At  first  these  were  crude 
affairs  often  misplaced  and  also  deficient  in  size.  However, 
experience  soon  discovered  these  defects  with  the  result 
that  in  New  York  an  ordinance  was  passed,  which  it  may 
be  well  to  quote. 

"In  every  building  now  erected  unless  already  provided 
with  a  three-inch  or  larger  vertical  pipe,  which  exceeds 
100  feet  in  height  and  in  every  building  hereafter  to  be 
erected  exceeding  85  feet  in  height,  and  when  any  such 
building  does  not  exceed  150  feet  in  height,  it  shall  be 

306 


THE   PROBLEM   OF  THE   SKYSCRAPER      307 

provided  with  a  four-inch  stand-pipe  running  from  cellar 
to  roof,  with  one  two-way  three-inch  Siamese  connection 
to  be  placed  on  street  above  the  curb  level  and  with  one 
2  ^2 -inch  outlet,  with  hose  attached  thereto  on  each  floor, 
placed  as  near  the  stairs  as  practical ;  and  all  buildings  now 
erected,  unless  already  provided  with  a  three-inch  or 
larger  vertical  pipe,  or  hereafter  to  be  erected,  exceeding 
150  feet  in  height,  shall  be  provided  with  an  auxiliary  fire 
apparatus  and  appliances,  consisting  of  water  tank  on  roof, 
or  in  cellar,  .  .  .  and  such  other  appliances  as  may  be 
required  by  the  fire  department.  .  .  .  Stand-pipes  shall  not 
be  less  than  6  inches  in  diameter  for  all  buildings  exceeding 
150  feet  in  height.  All  stand-pipes  shall  extend  to  the 
street  and  there  be  provided  at  or  near  the  sidewalk  level 
with  the  Siamese  connections.  Said  stand-pipes  shall  also 
extend  to  the  roof.  ...  If  any  of  the  said  buildings  ex- 
tend from  street  to  street,  or  form  an  L  shape,  they  shall 
be  provided  with  stand-pipes  for  each  street  frontage." 
As  will  be  seen  this  sets  a  minimum  requirement  of  4-inch 
stand-pipes  for  all  buildings  over  85  and  up  to  150  feet 
in  height,  and  6-inch  for  all  buildings  over  150  feet.  In 
practice  it  was  found  that  a  greater  diameter  was  neces- 
sary in  order  to  give  more  water  for  fire-fighting,  and  re- 
cently the  diameter  was  increased  to  eight  inches  in  build- 
ings over  150,  and  6  inches  for  buildings  under  that 
height. 

At  this  point  a  brief  description  of  a  stand-pipe,  its  equip- 
ment and  operation  may  not  be  out  of  place.  The  material 
used  is  generally  galvanized,  sometimes  ordinary  black  pipe. 
In  the  case  of  very  high  buildings  the  main  line  must  be 
connected  by  a  Y  at  the  street  level,  giving  four  3-inch 
inlets.  These  inlets  to  the  Siamese  have  "clapper"  valves, 
serving  as  checks  to  prevent  the  water  from  backing  out. 
There  is  also  placed  a  swing  check  to  prevent  the  water  in 
the  pipe  from  backing  out  to  the  street  connection  when 
the  line  is  not  in  use.  This  is  to  prevent  freezing  in  winter 
time.  The  object  of  the  pipe  line  being  connected  to  a 
tank  on  the  roof  is  to  ensure  a  supply  of  not  less  than 


308  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

3,500  gallons  of  water,  which  will  enable  the  occupants 
of  the  building  to  hold  in  check  an  incipient  blaze  prior  to 
the  arrival  of  the  Department.  All  house  supply  lines  for 
domestic  purposes  attached  to  the  tank,  must  be  tapped  in 
at  such  a  height  as  to  ensure  at  all  times  the  quantity  of 
water  mentioned.  A  check  valve  is  placed  at  the  bottom  of 
this  tank  on  the  stand-pipe  line,  set  to  permit  a  downward 
flow  and  to  prevent  an  upward  flow,  in  case  a  fire  engine 
or  high  pressure  lines  are  connected  at  the  street  level. 
The  omission  of  this  check  would  prevent  pressure  on  the 
floor  below,  as  water  pumped  in  would  merely  overflow 
from  the  tank  on  to  the  roof.  An  open  hose  outlet  on  the 
roof  will  have  the  same  effect,  as  the  writer  has  more  than 
once  observed.  Officers  should  carefully  note  these  points 
in  making  inspections.  Templates  should  be  provided  and 
connections  at  street  level  and  also  those  on  the  outlets 
on  floors  should  be  tested  to  see  that  they  comply  with 
department  standards.  It  is  a  very  serious  matter,  when 
a  dangerous  fire  is  raging  in  the  upper  stories  of  such 
structures,  to  find  that  the  connections  will  not  fit  the 
hose  and  that  water  cannot  be  forced  through  the  stand- 
pipes  except  through  the  medium  of  inside  connections,  a 
somewhat  ineffectual  expedient,  but  that  hose  lines  must  be 
stretched  12,  14,  16  or  more  stories. 

To  the  unthinking  this  may  represent  little,  but  to  the 
experienced  fire-fighter  it  means  much.  Very  few  men 
would  be  able  to  walk  up  fourteen  flights  of  stairs  and 
then  be  fit  for  work  on  their  arrival.  Firemen  in  New 
York  must  often  climb  more  than  150  feet,  but  it  is  im- 
possible to  drag  hose  lines  up  to  such  height.  Also  the 
hose  cannot  stand  the  excessive  pressure  necessary  to  force 
water  to  this  elevation,  and  even  were  it  possible,  the  time 
employed  in  so  doing  would  permit  the  fire  to  extend  to 
such  proportions  as  to  destroy  the  building.  With  suf- 
ficient material  on  which  to  feed,  a  fire  will  extend  in  geo- 
metrical ratio  to  elapsed  time,  which  again  proves  the 
necessity  of  speed  in  order  properly  to  control  an  out- 
break. All  signs  regarding  pipes  should  be  properly  placed. 


THE   PROBLEM   OF  THE   SKYSCRAPER      309 

Where  there  are  two  lines  of  pipe,  one  for  the  sprinklers 
or  perforated  pipe  system,  and  the  other  for  the  stand- 
pipe,  a  mistake  or  misplacement  of  the  signs  indicating 
their  nature  will  cause  serious  delay  and  often  great  dam- 
age. At  this  point  it  may  be  well  to  state  that  perforated 
pipes  are  a  poor  substitute  for  sprinklers  and  should  be 
taken  out  of  all  buildings  and  the  latter  installed  in  their 
place. 

The  street  connections  should  be  not  less  than  2  nor 
more  than  3  feet  from  the  sidewalk  level  and  at  right 
angles  to  the  building,  which  facilitates  the  work  of  con- 
necting up.  Should  these  connections  be  out  of  order,  lines 
can  be  connected  to  the  outlets  on  the  lower  floors  by 
means  of  a  double  female  connection.  The  method  of 
procedure  is  to  disconnect  the  house  line,  put  on  an  in- 
creaser — 2^/2  to  3  inches — leaving  a  three-inch  male  thread, 
to  this  connect  the  double  female ;  this  will  give  a  three-inch 
female  connection  for  the  male  end  of  the  hose  stretched 
from  the  engine  or  high  pressure  hydrant.  As  soon  as 
connection  is  made,  open  the  valve  and  start  the  water. 
All  outlet  valves  on  floor  outlets  should  be  of  the  gate 
type,  which  gives  a  free  waterway,  whereas  the  globe  type 
materially  reduces  the  flow.  Where  several  lines  are  being 
used  on  the  upper  floors  of  a  building,  and  the  two  or  four 
lines  connected  to  the  Siamese  are  overtaxed,  the  supply 
may  be  augmented  by  connecting  to  the  lower  floor  outlets 
as  previously  described.  In  New  York,  stand-pipes  are 
used  in  buildings  so  equipped  when  the  fire  is  on  or  above 
the  fifth  floor.  Below  this  point  the  ordinary  method  is 
preferable.  The  hose  provided  in  these  buildings  should 
be  of  good  quality,  capable  of  sustaining  a  pressure  of  200 
pounds  and  be  fitted  with  i  or  i^-inch  nozzles.  In  many 
cases,  through  lack  of  attention  on  the  part  of  owners  or 
agents  to  keep  the  hose  in  proper  condition,  the  firemen 
fear  to  trust  it  and  connect  up  a  department  hose,  using 
their  own  controlling  nozzles  for  inside  work. 

In  order  to  describe  the  actual  use  of  these  stand-pipes 
and  the  pressure  required  to  force  water  to  the  upper 


3io  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

floors  of  buildings  on  fire,  let  it  be  assumed  that  there  is 
an  outbreak  on  the  sixteenth  floor  of  a  2O-story  building. 
The  companies  arrive  and  connect  to  the  stand-pipe,  and 
as  the  fire  is  a  threatening  one  four  lines  are  led  to  the 
Siamese.  Hook  and  ladder  and  engine  company  men  pro- 
ceed to  the  floor  directly  beneath  the  fire,  by  order  of  the 
Chief,  using  the  elevator  for  this  purpose.  The  ordinance 
requires  that  night  and  day  elevator  service  must  be  pro- 
vided in  all  buildings  over  150  feet  in  height.  Each  com- 
pany has  its  instructions,  and  a  Battalion  Chief,  in  com- 
mand on  the  inside  accompanies  them.  As  soon  as  con- 
nections have  been  made  to  the  Siamese,  the  chief  officer 
must  determine  the  pressure  necessary  to  furnish  effective 
fire  streams  on  the  sixteenth  floor,  or  an  approximate 
height  of  170  feet.  The  formula,  for  this  procedure  is  to 
multiply  the  height  of  the  building  by  .434,  but  here  there 
is  no  time  for  pad  and  pencil.  The  best  method  is  to 
allow  5  pounds  for  each  floor  of  elevation,  and  at  the  height 
above  mentioned  it  can  be  readily  grasped  that  the  result 
is  80  Ibs. — 7  Ibs.  more  than  the  exact  formula  but  which 
will  be  needed  as  the  stand-pipe  goes  from  the  sidewalk 
to  the  basement  and  perhaps  to  the  sub-basement.  This 
gives  the  column  additional  length  and  as  the  stand-pipe 
often  makes  a  right  angled  turn  at  the  basement  level  there 
is  an  additional  loss  of  pressure  at  that  point.  Also  there 
is  a  nominal  friction  loss  in  the  pipe  itself.  The  writer's 
purpose  is  not  to  weary  the  reader  with  technical  details, 
but  it  is  necessary  to  explain  this  procedure  for  the  benefit 
of  commanding  officers  at  fires,  at  greater  length  than 
many  other  subjects  with  which  firemen  are  more  familiar. 
Therefore,  5  Ibs.  will  be  allowed  to  each  story  for  weight, 
about  4  Ibs.  friction  loss  for  each  50- foot  length  of  3-inch 
hose,  5  Ibs.  loss  at  Siamese  connections  and  10  Ibs.  for 
entry  head  at  the  valve  outlet  on  the  upper  floors. 

It  will  be  assumed  that  there  are  two  lengths  of  3-inch 
hose  in  each  line,  giving  8  Ibs.,  5  Ibs.  for  Siamese,  80 
for  weight  of  water  column  and  10  for  entry  head;  mak- 
ing 103  Ibs.  in  all.  Add  to  this  the  force  necessary  to 


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DIAGRAM    SHOWING   APPROXIMATE   PRESSURE 
IN    SECTIONS   BETWEEN    REGULATING   VALVES. 


DETAIL    SHOWING    POSITION    OF 
REGULATION    VALVE   ON    BY-PASS    OF   STANDPIPE. 


THE   PROBLEM   OF  THE   SKYSCRAPER      311 

give  effective  nozzle  pressure  which  would  be  from  50 
Ibs.  and  upward  according  to  the  extent  of  the  fire  and 
the  result  is  153  Ibs.  This,  of  course,  might  be  varied 
if  a  number  of  streams  were  taken  off  the  stand-pipes, 
as  the  friction  loss  in  hose  and  pipe  is  as  the  square  of 
the  velocity.  That  is,  if  water  is  travelling  at  the  rate  of 
ten  feet  a  second  the  square  of  ten  is  100,  but  let  the  flow 
be  increased  to  20  feet  per  second,  and  the  square  is  four 
hundred,  or  four  times  as  much.  Therefore,  while  the 
velocity  would  only  double  the  friction  loss  would  be  four 
times  greater.  Officers  arriving  at  an  outbreak,  find,  as  by 
a  predetermined  order,  that  the  pressure  on  the  mains  is 
100  or  125  pounds.  They  must  judge  instantly  if  addi- 
tional pressure  is  required  and  order  it  promptly,  though 
it  must  be  remembered  that  much  damage  may  be  done  by 
excess  in  this  direction.  The  writer  once  arrived  to  take 
command  at  a  fire  in  a  five-story  commercial  building. 
The  structure  had  50  feet  frontage  and  was  200  feet  deep 
and  the  fire  had  control  of  the  three  upper  floors  and  was 
threatening  surrounding  property.  The  officer  found  in 
charge  was  asked  what  he  had  done  and  if  additional  com- 
panies had  been  summoned,  as  there  was  but  a  first  alarm 
assignment  at  work.  The  reply  was,  "No,  sir,  I  did  not 
send  out  a  second  alarm,  but  I  ordered  250  Ibs.  pressure  on 
the  high  pressure  pumps."  This  was  soon  after  the  in- 
stallation of  the  high  pressure  service  and  officers  had  not 
yet  mastered  its  proper  use.  In  this  case  125  Ibs.  was 
quite  sufficient,  or  at  most  150,  to  which  point  the  pressure 
was  immediately  reduced  and  additional  forces  summoned. 
The  very  high  and  unnecessary  pressure  might  have  caused 
damage  to  hose,  apparatus,  pumps  or  even  men.  Officers 
who  wish  to  master  these  technical  details  should  study 
them  at  leisure  in  their  offices,  so  that  they  may  be  available 
for  instant  practice  at  a  fire. 

The  best  method  of  fighting  fires  in  lofts  or  office  build- 
ings of  great  height  is  to  connect  the  first  line  at  the  outlet 
floor  below  the  fire,  lay  the  line  out  free  of  kinks  and 
stretch  up  the  stairs.  Charge  the  lines.  Never  be  caught 


312  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

with  an  empty  line  in  hand  when  the  door  is  opened.  Here 
is  where  many  a  man  is  injured,  for  his  old  enemy,  "back- 
draught,"  is  just  inside  and  the  moment  the  door  is  opened 
it  rushes  out  with  superhuman  force. 

Lie  low  and  like  a  pugilist,  duck  the  blow,  and  open  up 
the  pipe  at  once.  Without  going  into  a  scientific  discus- 
sion of  the  causes  of  back-draught,  it  may  be  well  roughly 
to  define  it  and  to  describe  its  action  from  a  fireman's 
viewpoint.  Plainly  stated,  it  is  an  excessive  pressure  on  a 
floor  where  windows  and  doors  are  tightly  closed.  As  the 
heat  increases  the  air  expands,  causing  a  greater  pressure 
on  the  floor  than  the  corresponding  outside  atmosphere. 
When  a  vent  is  given  there  is  a  blowout,  resembling  an 
explosion,  for  the  pressure  must  be  equalized.  In  other 
words  the  pressure  on  the  floor  must  be  brought  down  to 
the  corresponding  atmosphere  on  the  exterior.  The  first 
explosion  may  be  slight,  but  is  often  followed  by  a  more 
dangerous  outburst,  depending  upon  the  degree  of  heat 
on  the  floor.  The  influx  of  fresh  oxygen  supplies  abun- 
dant fuel  for  the  flames  and  the  smoke,  which  is  part  of 
the  goods  imperfectly  consumed,  bursts  into  flame  and 
shoots  through  the  opening.  This  condition  must  be 
guarded  against,  as  men  may  be  caught  on  the  stairs  and 
literally  roasted.  The  sudden  outburst  of  flame  may  also 
blow  out  windows  on  all  sides,  endangering  surrounding 
property  or  the  floors  above.  Another,  and  still  more  dan- 
gerous form  of  back-draught,  is  where  a  slow  burning  fire 
consumes  the  oxygen  in  a  building  tightly  sealed.  A  gas 
much  lighter  than  air  results,  and  this  is  particularly  aggra- 
vated by  the  nature  of  certain  kinds  of  goods.  As  is  well 
known,  different  chemical  changes  take  place  in  different 
kinds  of  material.  A  vacuum  is  formed  inside  the  building 
and  as  soon  as  the  latter  is  opened  there  is  an  inrush  of  air 
which  coming  in  sudden  contact  with  the  gas,  causes  an 
explosion.  The  writer  has  often  seen  this  peculiar  phe- 
nomenon. The  explosion  is  preceded  by  an  awe  inspiring 
silence;  nature  seems  suspended  for  the  moment  while  the 
two  elements  meet.  In  an  instant,  all  is  wreck  and  ruin. 


THE   PROBLEM   OF  THE   SKYSCRAPER      313 

Men  of  experience  instinctively  feel  this  condition,  and 
the  order  to  back  down  and  out  is  instantly  given,  though, 
if  in  a  position  where  they  cannot  get  away  at  once,  men 
should  drop  on  hands  and  knees,  covering  their  faces  from 
the  wave  of  flame.  It  may  pass  over  without  doing  dam- 
age, when  they  should  instantly  arise  and  keep  the  pipe 
open  while  backing  out  of  danger.  Perhaps  in  all  the 
science  of  fire- fighting  no  part  requires  more  care  and  at- 
tention than  the  opening  of  buildings  on  fire.  Many  brave 
men  have  lost  their  lives  at  this  dangerous  work.  At  a 
fire  in  the  stock  yards  in  Chicago,  Chief  Horan  and  23 
officers  and  men  were  killed  just  as  the  door  was  opened. 
There  were  no  windows  in  the  building  through  which  the 
pressure  could  be  relieved,  and  the  wall  gave  way  under 
the  strain,  burying  all  who  were  in  front  of  it.  Where 
such  conditions  are  suspected,  an  opening  should  be  made 
in  the  roof;  this  will  relieve  the  pressure  and  is  a  fairly 
safe  method. 

A  brief  reference  must  be  made  to  the  following  im- 
portant point.  In  cases  where  fire  has  complete  possession 
of  i,  2  or  3  floors  in  a  high  building,  beyond  the  reach 
of  towers  or  turrets,  great  care  should  be  exercised  in 
placing  lines  above  the  outbreak.  Companies  of  men  with 
good  streams  should  be  at  the  doors  below  in  order  that 
the  fire  may  not  come  out  and  cut  off  the  retreat  of  the 
men  above.  Buildings  of  this  class  have  more  than  one 
stairway  and  more  than  one  stand-pipe,  and  the  least  ex- 
posed position  should  be  chosen  in  advancing  lines  to  the 
upper  floors.  No  line  should  be  sent  to  an  upper  floor 
until  the  companies  operating  the  one  below  have  gained 
a  foothold  inside  the  door,  with  a  reasonable  assurance 
that  they  can  hold  the  position.  Give  as  much  ventilation 
as  possible  in  order  that  the  ascending  smoke  and  heat 
may  be  minimized.  Chiefs  should  avail  themselves  of  rear 
fire  escapes  and  every  other  possible  point  to  get  ahead  of 
the  fire,  for  should  it  once  become  uncontrollable  on  the 
upper  floors  men  cannot  be  kept  in  the  building,  and  a 
collapse  may  momentarily  occur.  In  all  buildings  of  this 


3i4  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

class  fire  towers  should  be  provided.  These  are  separate 
and  distinct  from  the  main  building  and  in  order  to  reach 
them  it  is  necessary  to  pass  from  the  floor  through  a  fire- 
proof door  on  to  a  balcony  outside  the  building,  and 
through  another  fireproof  door  into  the  tower  itself.  Or 
as  a  variant  to  this  system  there  is  a  plan  whereby  every 
building  is  to  be  divided  into  two  sections  by  means  of  a 
fire  wall  running  from  cellar  to  roof.  This  fire  wall  would 
have  fireproof  doors  on  each  floor  and  there  is  almost  no 
chance  of  a  fire  starting  simultaneously  in  both  parts  of  a 
building  so  divided.  In  case  of  an  outbreak  in  one  section, 
the  people  on  each  floor  would  walk  through  the  doors  to 
the  other  section,  shut  them  on  the  fire  and  take  their 
time  to  reach  the  street  and  firemen  could  easily  gain  a 
foothold  on  a  floor  subdivided  in  this  manner.  A  stand- 
pipe,  in  the  former  case,  should  run  from  lowest  floor  to 
roof  through  the  tower.  Firemen  could  pass  ahead  of  a 
fire  and  attack  it  on  each  floor  with  perfect  safety.  For 
rescue  of  occupants,  this  means,  combined  with  the  afore- 
said horizontal  fireproof  partitions  subdividing  the  floor 
area,  would  make  the  buildings  safe  for  public  and  firemen 
alike.  Add  to  these  two  indispensable  requisites  a  thorough 
installation  of  automatic  sprinklers,  and  the  high  building 
would  be  shorn  of  its  terrors. 

In  conclusion,  the  writer  feels  that  after  the  foregoing 
pages,  with  their  somewhat  technical  details  from  the  lay- 
man's point  of  view,  it  may  not  be  without  interest  to  give 
some  slight  description  of  the  greatest  skyscraper  in  the 
world,  the  Woolworth  Building  of  New  York.  Incident- 
ally, this  gigantic  block  of  masonry  was  designed  by  its 
namesake  as  a  memorial  of  his  earthly  success  and  to  the 
glory  of  the  commercial  enterprise  of  America.  Including 
basement  and  sub-basement,  it  consists  of  57  stories,  and 
rises  to  a  height  of  790  feet  above  street  level,  with  a  main 
frontage  of  150  feet.  Thus  it  will  be  seen  that  it  is  five 
times  its  own  width  and  is  less  than  100  feet  short  of  the 
Eiffel  Tower.  It  is,  of  course,  of  fireproof  steel  frame 
construction.  The  preparations  for  the  foundations  were 


THE    PROBLEM   OF  THE   SKYSCRAPER      315 

begun  in  August,  1911.  On  May  ist,  1913,  the  doors  were 
thrown  open  to  tenants.  This  represents  a  period  roughly 
of  twenty  months,  during  which  time  nearly  three  stories 
must  have  been  added  every  thirty  working  days.  Besides 
containing  business  premises,  which,  incidentally,  are  ar- 
ranged as  regards  floor  space  to  suit  the  wishes  of  tenants, 
it  is  equipped  with  two  restaurants,  one  in  the  cellar  and 
one  on  the  twenty-ninth  floor,  Russian  and  Turkish  baths, 
a  swimming  pool  and  ice  plant.  All  window  frames  within 
30  feet  of  any  other  building  are  of  hollow  copper  glazed 
with  wire  glass.  It  has  four  enclosed  stairways  of  iron 
and  marble,  though  only  one  extends  to  the  top  of  the 
tower.  There  are  28  passenger  elevators  built  on  the  most 
up-to-date  fire  resistive  principles.  For  the  protection  of 
the  building,  the  following  equipment  has  been  installed: 
There  are  six  6-inch  risers  running  from  the  sub-cellar 
to  the  30th  floor,  two  from  the  3ist  to  the  4ist  floor  and 
one  from  the  4ist  to  the  55th  floor  fed  by  tanks  on  the 
following  floors: 

1  Tank     6,300  Gals,  on  I4th  floor,  feeds  from  sub-cellar  to  I2th  floor. 

2  Tanks  10,000  Gals,  on  26th  floor,  feeds  from  I3th  to  24th  floor. 

1  Tank     3,100  Gals,  on  37th  floor,  feeds  from  25th  to  34th  floor. 

2  Tanks  /  {Z^™  Gals' )  on  5°th  floor'  feeds  from  35th  to  48th  floor' 
I  Tank     1,200  Gals,  on  53rd  floor,  feeds  from  49th  to  53rd  floor. 

There  are  four  outlets  above  this  tank  with  no  supply. 

The  main  riser,  6-inch,  has  checks  on  the  I4th,  27th, 
37th,  5<Dth  and  53rd  floors  with  checks  on  the  horizontal 
run. 

There  are  two  suction  tanks  in  the  sub-cellar : 

i  30'  x  9'  x  9! 

"I  15'  x  9'  x  9' 

There  is  a  swimming  pool  in  the  sub-cellar  Turkish  baths 
which  can  be  used  as  a  suction  tank,  with  a  capacity  of 
30,000  gallons. 

There  is  one  Dean  Electric  Pump,  3^'  x  6'  with  a  capa- 
city of  300  G.  P.  M. 


316  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

There  are  in  addition  five  Worthington  Steam  Pumps  as 
follows : 

i — 20'  x  9'  x  1 8'  500  G.  P.  M. 
i — 20'  x  10%  x  15'  500  G.  P.  M. 
1—14'  x  6y2  x  15'  150  G.  P.  M. 
i — 14'  x  6%  x  10'  150  G.  P.  M. 
1—12'  x  4^  x  10'  80  G.  P.  M. 

All  pumps  can  be  operated  singly  or  collectively,  and  are 
supplied  by  street  mains  as  follows: 

1—6*  from  Broadway. 
2—3*  from  Park  Place. 
2 — 3  *  from  Barclay  Street. 

Such  are  a  few  details  of  this  extraordinary  structure, 
which  may  be  expected  to  house  daily  some  10,000  souls. 
And  there  is  no  reason  to  believe  that  finality  has  been 
reached.  Room  must  be  found  for  the  teeming  thousands 
who  throng  to  the  business  section  of  New  York,  and  ex- 
pansion must  occur  by  the  way  of  least  resistance — up- 
ward. 


CHAPTER  XXII 

APPARATUS  FOR  FIRE-FIGHTING 

NOT  since  the  first  fire  department  was  organized  in 
ancient  Rome  has  there  been  such  an  awakening  as  at  the 
present  time,  and  all  countries  are  vying  one  with  the  other 
in  the  development  of  fire  controlling  and  fire  preventing 
appliances.  In  fire  control  the  greatest  effort  is  being 
made  to  develop  motor  propelled  apparatus  and  motor 
driven  pumps.  The  method  of  propulsion  is  almost  per- 
fected, as  all  that  was  necessary  was  to  apply  the  principles 
so  successful  in  moving  pleasure  and  commercial  vehicles 
to  fire  apparatus.  But  with  the  motor  driven  pump  mat- 
ters are  somewhat  different.  Perhaps  no  mechanical 
device  used  in  the  control  and  extinguishing  of  fire  has 
reached  such  a  high  state  of  perfection  as  the  steam  pump. 
To  discard  this  time  honored  and  often  severely  tried 
machine  for  a  practically  untried  device,  untried  at  least 
under  severe  conditions  such  as  being  forced  to  deliver 
water  under  high  pressure  for  35  or  40  hours  or  longer, 
would  be  unwise.  Many  American  cities  have  a  fire  hazard 
due  to  old  and  faulty  building  construction,  narrow  streets 
and  severe  weather  conditions,  where  it  would  be  almost 
criminal  to  install  a  new  type  of  apparatus  until  it  had 
been  tested  in  places  where  the  risk  would  be  limited. 

It  was  the  feeling  that  absolute  reliability  must  be 
guaranteed  which  caused  many  cities  to  hesitate  in  adopt- 
ing the  motor  driven  pump.  An  extensive  field  was  found, 
however,  for  this  type  of  apparatus  in  suburban  settle- 
tlements  and  in  small  towns.  In  these  places  the  fire  force 
is  usually  a  voluntary  one,  horses  are  not  always  available 

317 


3i8  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

nor  can  fuel  easily  be  supplied,  and  should  it  happen  that 
there  is  not  sufficient  water  pressure  in  the  mains  a  motor- 
propelled  and  motor-driven  pumping  machine  is  a  great 
boon.  It  requires  but  one  man  to  take  the  machine  to  the 
scene  and  it  can  be  accomplished  in  one-tenth  of  the  time 
required  for  a  horse-drawn  or  hand-pulled  engine.  Time 
is  all-important  in  such  cases,  and  as  the  run  is  often  long 
and  the  gradients  heavy,  great  damage  may  be  done  before 
the  arrival  of  firemen  or  apparatus  which  usually  results  in 
the  total  destruction  of  the  building  involved.  Therefore 
in  such  places  and  under  such  conditions  motor-propelled 
apparatus  is,  and  motor-driven  pumps  may  be,  desirable; 
but  in  large  cities,  where  great  congestion  intensifies  the 
fire  hazard,  the  first  efforts  of  manufacturers  were  not  suc- 
cessful in  producing  a  motor-driven  pump  to  meet  the  re- 
quirements of  the  Fire  Department. 

The  scrap  heap  was  large  in  those  days,  but  there  is 
some  evidence  that  it  is  diminishing.  Manufacturers 
found  by  the  only  reliable  method,  that  of  experience,  that 
some  of  their  pet  ideas  were  not  feasible.  Chiefs  of  Fire 
Departments  discovered  this  to  their  cost,  but  out  of  con- 
fusion is  being  evolved  a  fairly  good  motor  fire  engine. 
Naturally,  it  is  still  lacking  in  the  perfection  of  the  steam 
pump,  but  when  it  is  considered  that  fifty  years  were  re- 
quired to  develop  this  apparatus,  it  must  be  allowed  that  in 
possibly  one-quarter  of  this  period  a  most  excellent  motor- 
driven  pump  will  be  in  use. 

The  steam  pump  was  brought  to  perfection  along  the 
line  of  reciprocating  motion,  steam  being  particularly 
adapted  to  this  movement  as  shown  in  all  kinds  of  steam 
engines,  marine,  stationary,  etc.  But  the  application  of 
a  somewhat  different  force,  that  of  gas  explosions,  to  a  pis- 
ton, developing  what  is  practically  a  rotary  motion,  the 
writer  is  inclined  to  think  will  not  be  so  efficacious.  For 
any  man  to  attempt  to  condemn  the  reciprocating  sys- 
tem would  be  folly;  it  may  work,  and  as  a  matter  of  fact 
does  work,  fairly  well,  several  firms  having  turned  out 
average  machines  of  this  type.  But  in  converting  one  mo- 


APPARATUS    FOR   FIRE-FIGHTING  319 

tion  to  another  there  is  necessarily  the  introduction  of 
complicated  gears  and  a  multiplicity  of  parts,  often  hard 
to  reach  in  case  of  repairs,  and  there  is  in  any  case  a  loss 
of  power  in  transmission  which  would  seem  to  militate 
against  the  piston  pump. 

As  some  pin  their  faith  to  the  reciprocating  style,  so 
others  favor  the  rotary.  This  type  seemed  to  promise  suc- 
cess, as  there  was  no  conversion  of  motion  and  the  gear 
was  much  simpler.  However,  some  new  and  many  old  de- 
fects showed  up,  and  the  great  fault  of  excessive  slip 
known  to  exist  in  all  rotary  pumps  when  run  at  high  pres- 
sure was  still  apparent.  Close-fitting  casings  with  the  in- 
troduction of  improved  springs  behind  the  gibs  seemed  to 
promise  success,  but  under  severe  trial  were  glaringly  de- 
fective. No  chief  of  experience  could  be  satisfied  with 
this.  The  manufacturers  greatly  improved  the  old  rotary 
type  of  twenty-five  years  ago.  The  diameter  of  the  shaft 
being  increased  to  take  out  spring  under  high  pressure. 
The  shafts  were  shortened  for  the  same  reason.  Water 
pockets  between  the  gears,  which  gave  a  back  pressure, 
were  changed  by  tapping  into  the  pocket  or  hollowing  out 
the  casing  and  piping  around  to  the  discharge.  But  still 
there  is  room  for  improvement.  When  a  very  high  pres- 
sure is  required,  a  point  is  reached  when  a  rotary  pump 
acts  almost  like  a  piston  pump,  each  gear  striking  a  blow 
exactly  like  the  plunger,  when  the  point  of  closest  contact 
to  the  casing  is  reached.  This  is  bound  to  jar  injuriously 
the  entire  machine,  and  to  wreck  it  unless  it  is  very  strong. 
Such  are  a  few  of  the  defects  which  came  under  the 
writer's  notice  when  watching  tests.  There  are  many 
things  to  be  said  for  and  against  all  types,  but  the  opinion 
may  be  hazarded  that  even  the  makers  of  these  rotary,  or 
gear,  pumps  know  and  admit  that  this  apparatus  is  not  the 
equal  of  the  steam  pump. 

Another  type  tried  with  moderate  success  is  the  centrifu- 
gal. That  this  would  be  a  immediate  success  there  is  not 
the  slightest  doubt,  were  it  not  that,  like  the  reciprocating 
pump,  it  is  somewhat  difficult  to  use  it  in  conjunction  with 


320  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

the  motor.  In  order  to  obtain  a  centrifugal  pump  which 
will  deliver  750  gallons  of  water  per  minute  at  130  Ibs. 
pressure  per  square  inch  and  come  within  the  weight  prac- 
tical for  fire  apparatus,  it  must  run  at  a  speed  of  16  to  18 
hundred  revolutions  a  minute.  For  fire  apparatus,  at  least, 
this  is  not  practical,  for  a  new  difficulty  arises,  that  of  cool- 
ing the  cylinders.  High  speed  is  possible  in  fast  moving 
cars  when  a  strong  current  of  air  is  forced  through  the 
radiator,  but  in  fire  apparatus  standing  stationary  at  a  fire 
the  designers  are  confronted  by  very  different  conditions. 
Therefore,  in  order  to  obtain  the  speed,  a  differential  of  at 
least  two  to  one  is  necessary,  or  the  other  alternative  must 
be  used;  that  of  increasing  the  size  and  driving  direct  at 
the  same  speed  as  the  motor.  In  the  one  case  there  is  the 
differential  gear  with  some  loss  of  power,  and  in  the  other 
a  slow  but  much  heavier  pump.  Could  a  motor  be  built 
that  would  directly  drive  a  centrifugal  pump  at  a  speed  of 
twelve  hundred  revolutions  a  minute,  it  would  be  the  ideal 
type  for  motor  apparatus,  and  the  writer  believes  that  one 
will  soon  be  obtainable. 

As  already  stated  in  this  volume,  there  are  various  de- 
vices for  raising  aerial  ladders,  some  mechanical,  others 
electrical  and  still  others  by  means  of  compressed  air.  It 
is  not  the  purpose  to  enter  into  an  explanation  of  how 
these  devices  should  be  operated  as  any  intelligent  fireman 
can  learn  their  use  in  half  an  hour,  but  a  word  may  be 
said  as  to  the  placing  of  the  ladders  themselves.  The 
writer  has  often  seen  ladders  in  such  a  position  that  it  was 
quite  difficult  to  work  on  them  to  advantage,  whether  the 
work  was  rescuing  persons  or  operating  lines. 

In  order  to  obtain  a  clear  idea  of  the  proper  position  in 
which  to  place  a  truck  so  that  an  aerial  ladder  may  be 
properly  operated,  let  it  be  assumed  that  the  ladder  is  to 
be  raised  to  a  window  on  the  sixth  floor  of  a  commercial 
building.  This  would  be  about  65  feet  from  the  ground, 
as  the  first  floor  is  about  15  feet  and  the  others  about  10 
in  height.  The  approximate  measurements  can  be  deter- 
mined by  a  practical  truck  man  at  a  glance,  and  the  truck 


APPARATUS   FOR   FIRE-FIGHTING  321 

should  be  set  about  16  feet  from  the  building  with  the 
centre  of  the  turntable  in  line  with  the  centre  of  the  win- 
dow. The  point  of  the  fly  ladder  should  extend  about  15 
inches  above  the  sill,  but  care  should  be  taken  in  placing  the 
same  that  it  should  not  be  permitted  to  rest  heavily  on  the 
sill,  but  should  be  lowered  to  within  a  few  inches  of  it. 
As  soon  as  the  weight  of  a  body  is  near  the  top  it  will 
cause  the  ladder  properly  to  set  against  the  window  ledge. 
Should  the  ladder  be  originally  placed  as  above,  there  is 
no  danger  of  its  buckling  in  the  centre.  Reference  is  made 
to  this  matter  of  properly  placing  ladders  on  account  of 
the  great  difference  in  the  width  of  sidewalks  and  some 
officers  accept  the  sidewalk  as  an  infallible  guide.  Of 
course  it  is  not  intended  that  the  space  should  be  measured 
off  with  a  two- foot  rule,  but  a  little  thought  and  experience 
works  wonders,  and  if  they  would  only  practice  with  lad- 
ders of  various  sizes  they  would  quickly  pick  up  the  faculty 
of  placing  them  in  proper  position.  In  the  New  York  Fire 
Department,  frequent  drills  are  held  and  it  is  surprising  to 
see  how  rapidly  even  untrained  men  grasp  the  idea.  A 
poorly  placed  ladder  at  a  fire  is  inexcusable. 

For  those  who  care  to  go  into  the  subject  a  little  more 
deeply  and  perhaps  to  practise  at  the  drill  school  with  ap- 
paratus, the  following  rule  may  be  helpful:  Divide  the 
height  to  which  the  ladder  is  to  be  raised  by  five  and  add 
three.  Thus,  take  a  thirty-five-foot  ladder.  Five  into 
thirty-five  goes  seven  times,  add  three  and  the  result  is  ten. 
So  the  butt  of  the  ladder  should  rest  about  ten  feet  from 
the  building.  Or  again  a  seventy-five- foot  ladder  should 
be  placed  approximately  eighteen  feet  away,  and  so  on. 
This  rule  is  not  worked  out  to  inches,  but  it  constitutes  a 
fair  guide  when  sidewalks  are  very  wide  or  the  reverse 
and  affords  the  officer  in  charge  a  working  basis. 

A  few  words  may  perhaps  be  appropriate  at  this  point 
anent  an  unique  feature  of  American  fire  practice,  namely 
the  water  tower.  This  apparatus  consists  merely  of  a  lat- 
tice work  tower  mounted  on  a  quadrant,  through  the  in- 
terior of  which  passes  a  hollow  tube,  through  which  again 


322  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

an  extension  tube  on  the  telescopic  order  is  fitted  in  such  a 
manner  that  it  may  be  extended  in  a  similar  way  to  the 
extension  ladder.  When  fully  extended  the  tower  is  be- 
tween 65  and  70  feet.  When  not  working  it  is  kept  in  a 
horizontal  position,  being  raised  when  necessary  either  by 
hydraulic  pressure  or  by  springs.  It  is  especially  useful  in 
fighting  fires  in  high  buildings  and  that  its  adoption  is  not 
general  in  Europe  is  due  to  the  fact  that  local  conditions 
are  not  as  a  rule  such  as  to  necessitate  its  employment. 
None  the  less  the  following  details  may  be  of  assistance  to 
fire  chiefs  in  all  parts  of  the  world. 

In  many  small  fire  departments,  and  for  that  matter  in 
some  of  appreciable  size,  it  is  customary  to  use  the  bed 
ladders  on  trucks  as  water  towers.  Not  being  possessed  of 
the  latter  apparatus,  chiefs  are  obliged  to  use  a  makeshift 
in  order  to  get  a  nozzle  into  an  elevated  position  at  fires 
where  the  ladder  cannot  be  lowered  against  the  building. 
A  ladder  pipe  after  the  style  of  turret  pipes  used  on  wagons 
and  water  towers  should  be  permanently  attached  to  the 
under  side  of  the  ladder  and  securely  fastened.  A  length 
of  three-inch  hose  is  attached  to  the  pipe  and  strapped  to 
the  ladder  with  a  Siamese  connection  on  the  ground. 
Should  a  water  tower  be  needed,  this  will  effectively  take 
its  place.  Run  in  two  lines,  connect  to  the  Siamese,  raise 
the  bed  ladder  to  the  desired  position  and  the  stream  is 
controlled  from  the  street  by  guys  or  a  man  may  be  sent 
aloft  to  direct  it.  If  it  appears  cumbersome  to  have  an 
entire  length  with  the  Siamese  attached,  a  short  length  of 
about  ten  feet  may  be  used  and  it  should  be  kept  in  position 
with  the  pipe  near  the  end,  and  in  case  a  water  tower  is 
needed  the  short  length  is  connected  with  a  length  of  three- 
inch  hose  carried  for  the  purpose.  This  will  bring  the  si- 
amese  to  the  street  level  and  will  give  mobility  to  the  line. 
In  case  there  is  no  stationary  pipe  on  the  ladder,  an  open 
nozzle  should  be  connected  to  a  length  of  three-inch  hose 
and  laid  on  the  ladder  with  the  nozzle  pointing  through 
the  rounds  about  two  from  the  top.  It  must  be  lashed  in 
position,  and  if  the  company  contains  a  practical,  or  even 


APPARATUS   FOR   FIRE-FIGHTING  323 

an  amateur,  sailor  he  should  be  employed  to  make  the  knot. 
Landsmen  ought  to  be  well  versed  in  making  such  knots 
in  advance,  as  it  is  useless  to  instruct  a  man  in  such  work 
at  a  moment  when  celerity  is  most  necessary. 

A  word  of  caution  should  be  inserted  in  connection  with 
the  use  of  aerial  ladders  as  water  towers.  Although  the 
writer  is  aware  that  a  ladder  so  converted  is  still  available, 
all  ladders  should  not  be  used  for  this  purpose.  Persons 
in  the  building  may  be  cut  off  by  the  flames  or  if  the  fire- 
fighters are  pocketed  a  long  ladder  may  be  necessary  in 
order  to  effect  their  rescue  and  judgment  must  be  used  in 
the  number  of  ladders  which  may  be  transformed,  al- 
though all  that  is  necessary  to  do  is  to  shut  off  the  water, 
disconnect  the  lines,  lower  the  ladder,  ship  the  steering 
wheel  and  move  the  truck  to  the  point  where  it  is  needed. 
But  it  must  be  remembered  that  this  will  take  an  appreci- 
able length  of  time,  and  the  fire,  sweeping  toward  the  im- 
prisoned people,  will  not  await  the  convenience  of  the  de- 
partment. Hence  use  caution  before  converting  an  escape 
into  a  water  tower. 

As  to  the  success  of  the  gasoline  motor  for  hauling  ap- 
paratus, there  can  be  no  question.  The  experimental  stage 
has  passed  and  that  of  certainty  has  arrived.  The  main 
point  is  whether  the  motor  should  be  built  in  as  an  integral 
part  of  the  apparatus,  or  whether  it  should  be  detachable 
and  be  in  the  form  of  a  tractor.  In  some  ways  the  latter 
seems  preferable  since,  should  anything  happen  to  the 
tractor  necessitating  extensive  repairs,  it  is  easily  discon- 
nected, another  tractor  attached  and  the  apparatus  kept  in 
service.  It  appears  that  this  style  of  traction  is  coming 
into  general  use  and  the  writer  believes  will  be  universally 
adopted  both  in  fire  departments  and  commercially,  as  time 
demonstrates  its  utility.  It  is  beyond  the  scope  of  this 
work  to  enter  into  a  detailed  description  of  each  part  of 
motor  apparatus,  but  rather  to  afford  some  general  idea 
of  what  experience  has  taught. 

A  word  may  here  be  said  anent  the  storage  battery. 
Many  fire  chiefs  express  a  strong  preference  for  this  style, 


324  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

and,  like  everything  else,  it  is  possessed  of  some  good 
points  and  a  number  of  bad  ones.  Thus  the  batteries  dete- 
riorate rapidly  when  standing  still  and  are  expensive  to  re- 
place. For  effective  fire  service  it  is  necessary  to  have  a 
set  charging  continuously,  while  for  heavy  grades  it  is  not 
as  certain  as  gasoline.  On  the  other  hand  it  is  easier  to 
operate  and  is  certainly  more  reliable  for  starting  away  in 
response  to  an  alarm.  While  still  in  the  experimental 
stage,  it  is  worth  watching,  for  there  is  no  saying  what  de- 
velopments may  occur  which  will  remove  its  present  dis- 
abilities and  place  it  beyond  the  sphere  of  the  problema- 
tical. The  intention  of  the  writer  is  not  to  express  a  de- 
cided preference  for  any  particular  type,  but  rather  to  in- 
dicate the  strong  and  weak  points  of  apparatus,  leaving 
individual  chiefs  to  assess  the  merits  or  otherwise  of  the 
machines  dealt  with,  and  thus  form  their  own  conclu- 
sions. 

In  operating  water  towers  and  extension  ladders,  that  is 
in  raising  and  lowering  them,  there  are  several  devices, 
electrical,  mechanical,  spring  and  hydraulic,  all  of  which 
have  points  in  their  favour.  The  electric  motor  can  raise  an 
extension  ladder  with  rapidity  and  the  spring  is  equally 
good,  some  even  considering  it  more  certain.  Hydraulic 
power  or  springs  can  be  employed  in  raising  a  water  tower. 
As  before  emphasized,  locality  must  govern  choice  and 
public  money  should  not  be  lightly  spent.  In  fact  the  best 
test  is  to  consider  whether,  were  the  purchaser  paying  for 
the  apparatus  out  of  his  own  pocket,  he  would  consider  it 
wise  to  spend  the  money. 

In  the  foregoing  a  brief  description  has  been  given  of 
the  major  pieces  of  motor  apparatus,  and  it  is  now  advis- 
able to  consider  their  operation.  Hose  wagons  and  run- 
abouts possess  no  technical  features,  with  the  exception 
that  they  should  be  strongly  built  and  with  sufficient  power 
to  carry  the  loads  placed  upon  them  over  rough  paving 
and  heavy  gradients.  But  the  fact  should  be  appreciated 
that  though  a  piece  of  apparatus  may  be  seldom  in  motion, 
when  it  is  needed  it  must  travel  like  the  wind.  All  depart- 


APPARATUS   FOR   FIRE-FIGHTING  325 

ments  have  recently  shown  a  tendency  to  run  the  hose 
wagon,  equipped  with  chemical  tanks,  ahead  as  a  kind  of 
scout.  The  writer  thoroughly  approves  of  this  method. 
As  has  been  frequently  repeated,  time  is  everything  in 
fire-fighting,  and  a  few  seconds  gained  may  prevent  great 
loss  of  life  and  property.  The  fast  moving  wagon  arrives 
on  the  scene  before  the  heavier  engine  and  attacks  the 
fire  with  chemical  lines,  remembering  in  all  cases  to  stretch 
two  and  a  half  inch  lines  from  the  nearest  hydrants.  On 
the  arrival  of  the  engine,  connection  is  quickly  made  to 
the  hydrants  and  preparations  commenced  to  start  water 
in  these  lines  immediately,  should  the  condition  of  the  fire 
warrant  such  an  operation.  The  old  adage  "Never  send  a 
boy  on  a  man's  errand"  should  be  borne  in  mind,  and  there- 
fore never  trust  entirely  to  a  chemical  line.  Although  it 
may  extinguish  the  fire  and  thereby  decrease  the  fire  loss, 
it  is  utterly  useless  should  the  outbreak  assume  great  pro- 
portions, and  under  these  conditions  a  good  stream  of 
water  is  an  absolute  requisite. 

In  residential  districts  where  the  houses  are  detached, 
chemicals  will  extinguish  many  fires  with  the  least  possible 
loss,  but  their  use  should  not  be  attemped  in  commercial 
buildings  where  great  quantities  of  goods  are  stored,  until 
science  has  given  us  a  far  more  effective  gas  than  is  at 
present  available.  In  employing  a  chemical  stream  it 
should  be  directed  low,  as  it  is  not  the  quantity  of  liquid 
which  extinguishes  the  fire,  but  the  gas  arising  from  it 
which  does  the  work.  As  it  is  evident  that,  in  order 
to  get  the  best  effect  from  chemical  streams,  the  gas 
should  be  confined,  such  streams  are  of  no  avail  in 
the  open.  Where  a  stream  of  water  is  used,  the  correct 
method  is  to  strike  the  ceiling  with  the  stream  on  en- 
tering a  room,  which  distributes  the  water.  Should  the 
entire  contents  of  a  small  room  be  involved  the  water 
is  spread  out  like  a  fan  over  the  whole  area,  when,  as 
the  writer's  old  mentor  used  to  say,  "A  dash  will  put 
it  out." 

The  next  points  to  be  considered  are  engine  and  high 


326  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

pressure  streams.  As  the  homeopathic  and  the  allopathic 
doctors  always  disagree  about  the  strength  of  a  dose  of 
medicine,  so  there  is  always  a  difference  of  opinion  amongst 
fire  chiefs  as  to  the  size  of  nozzles  to  be  used  and  the 
pressure  required  in  delivering  streams  at  fires.  In  the 
old  days  the  volunteers  christened  their  machines  "The 
Niagara,"  "The  Cataract,"  "The  Deluge,"  names  to 
denote  overwhelming  power,  as  it  was  the  idea  to  drown 
everything  in  sight.  Even  today  there  is  evidence  in  some 
quarters  that  this  desire  still  remains.  Nozzles  2,  3  and 
even  4  inches  in  diameter  are  sometimes  used!  Naturally 
common  sense  should  govern  the  matter,  for  though  there 
are  instances  where  one  powerful  stream  may  save  the  day, 
there  are  others  where  several  small  streams  are  far  more 
effective. 

Take  as  an  illustration  the  case  of  the  Equitable  fire; 
the  strong  gale  drove  the  fire  toward  Nassau  and  Cedar 
streets — the  latter  only  27  feet  wide  and  the  former  about 
45 — and  the  flames  raged  along  Cedir  street  for  a  dis- 
tance of  375  feet  and  on  Nassau  street  for  nearly  200 
feet.  Here  was  a  line  of  575  feet  to  be  protected  in  nar- 
row thoroughfares  where  the  high  buildings  had  windows 
of  plain  glass.  One,  two,  three  or  even  four  powerful 
streams  would  not  have  had  the  desired  effect.  It  required 
a  perfect  water  curtain  along  the  entire  front  and  the  only 
way  to  accomplish  this  was  to  cover  the  buildings  with  a 
deluge  from  small  streams,  supported  by  two-inch  streams 
from  the  water  towers  to  drive  the  fire  back.  Such  an 
effective  curtain  resulted  from  this  method  that  not  a 
single  pane  of  glass  was  broken  in  the  windows  of  the 
exposed  buildings  in  the  streets  mentioned.  It  was  as 
though  a  heavy  musketry  fire  from  an  entrenched  army, 
backed  by  a  few  pieces  of  artillery,  had  checked  the  ad- 
vance of  a  storming  party.  That  this  was  wonderfully 
successful  may  be  gathered  from  the  Underwriters'  Re- 
port, which  states,  that  it  was  effective  to  a  remarkable 
degree,  and  the  writer  would  add,  was  the  only  means 
under  the  conditions  existing  at  this  fire  which  would 


SEARCH   LIGHTS. 


APPARATUS   FOR   FIRE-FIGHTING  327 

have  accomplished  the  desired  result.  This  is  the  homeo- 
pathic method. 

Now  consider  the  allopathic  side.  To  give  an  example; 
last  autumn  an  explosion  took  place  in  a  sulphur  works 
built  on  a  dock  in  Williamsburg,  Borough  of  Brooklyn. 
A  strong  southwest  wind  was  blowing,  and  directly  across 
the  street  were  situated  the  oil  yards  of  the  Standard  Oil 
Company,  while  at  a  distance  of  only  45  or  50  feet  were 
extensive  hay  sheds,  one  thousand  feet  in  length.  A  more 
dangerous  combination  is  difficult  to  conceive!  A  fourth 
alarm  was  immediately  transmitted  by  the  District  Chief 
on  his  arrival,  followed  by  a  borough  call  which  brought 
another  third  alarm  assignment.  On  the  writer's  arrival 
he  found  a  most  dangerous  fire  confronting  him. 

The  entire  building  of  the  sulphur  works  was  involved, 
the  flames  shooting  a  hundred  feet  into  the  air.  The  hay 
sheds  had  ignited  and  the  flames  were  rolling  over  the 
oil  tanks  to  leeward.  Deputy  Chief  Langford,  with  eight 
engine  companies  and  a  fire  boat,  was  assigned  to  the 
leeward  position  in  the  oil  yards  and  six  companies  under 
Deputy  Chief  Lally  were  placed  in  the  street  between  the 
hay  sheds  and  the  latter. 

Although  the  water  supply  was  ample,  the  combined 
force  of  these  fourteen  companies  using  powerful  streams 
was  not  sufficient  to  drive  back  the  wave  of  fire  which 
momentarily  threatened  to  envelop  the  oil  yards  and  bring 
destruction  to  life  and  property. 

The  fire  boat,  Abram  S.  Hewitt,  had  worked  her  way 
in  to  within  75  feet  from  the  head  of  that  threatening 
and  destructive  sea  of  fire.  She  was  operating  about  eight 
1 24-inch  and  ij^-inch  streams.  The  order  was  given  that 
all  streams  should  be  shut  down  with  the  exception  of 
two  i  y* -inch,  which  were  operating  under  Langford  in 
the  yards,  and  that  a  three-inch  nozzle  should  be  put  on 
the  large  monitor  on  the  top  of  the  pilot  house.  The  full 
force  of  the  pumps  was  then  thrown  into  the  nozzle,  giv- 
ing a  pressure  of  145  Ibs.  and  a  discharge  of  more  than 
3,000  gallons  per  minute.  The  effect  of  this  was  to  crush 


328  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

the  head  of  that  fiery  wave  and  roll  it  back  and  hold  it, 
giving  the  men  operating  the  smaller  streams  a  chance  to 
advance.  Compare  the  two  examples.  In  one  a  threaten- 
ing fire  had  spread  over  a  great  area;  in  the  other  a 
terrific  wave  of  flame  was  concentrated  within  a  narrow 
space.  A  cyclone  in  the  first  instance;  a  tornado  in  the 
second. 

So  it  will  be  seen  that  in  fire-fighting  both  homeopathic 
and  allopathic  methods  are  required,  but  if  the  fire  can 
be  extinguished  with  a  small  stream  a  large  one  should 
never  be  employed.  How  best  to  judge  the  size  of  the 
dose  the  writer  is  unable  to  tell.  As  each  doctor  diagnoses 
his  own  case,  so  each  Chief  must  make  his  own  working 
diagram,  and,  like  some  physicians,  many  fire-fighters  have 
better  discernment  and  keener  judgment  than  others,  some- 
times born  of  greater  experience,  and  sometimes  more  or 
less  intuitive.  All  countries  are  looking  for  good  men  and 
paying  liberal  salaries,  and  each  must  study  and  fit  himself 
for  the  ordeal.  No  maps  or  charts  are  available,  the  sur- 
roundings must  be  noted  and  decision  must  be  prompt  and 
effective. 

The  intelligent  operation  of  apparatus  by  members  of 
fire-fighting  forces  is  an  absolute  essential  successfully  to 
cope  with  their  enemy.  The  direction  of  streams  at  a 
fire  is  almost  akin  to  gun  fire  from  a  battleship.  Shot 
and  shell  can  be,  and  indeed  very  often  are,  wasted,  due 
to  defective  gunnery;  streams  thrown  into  a  building  at  an 
improper  angle  are  useless  when,  by  a  little  judgment  on 
the  part  of  the  officer  in  charge,  much  more  effective  work 
could  be  accomplished.  This  is  particularly  true  of  water 
towers  and  turret  pipes.  In  placing  a  tower  in  front  of 
a  building,  a  little  quick  thinking  on  the  part  of  the  officer 
in  command  of  the  apparatus  would  often  make  a  great 
difference.  To  begin  with,  a  tower  should  never  be  placed 
far  to  windward  except  under  orders  from  a  superior. 
Ninety-nine  times  in  a  hundred  the  fire  will  work  to  lee- 
ward, so  the  tower  should  be  in  a  position  whence  the  fire 
can  be  fought  back  from  that  side.  The  mast  should  be 


APPARATUS   FOR   FIRE-FIGHTING  329 

extended  high  enough  to  give  the  stream  an  arc  which  will 
enable  it  to  strike  the  ceiling  of  a  particular  floor  about  20 
to  30  feet  inside  the  window.  As  in  gunnery  practice  the 
best  arc  is  about  40  degrees  elevation,  but  as  a  tower 
stream  is  not  directed  at  a  target  but  must  be  operated  over 
the  entire  front  of  a  building,  judgment  should  be  used  in 
its  placing  and  elevation  in  the  beginning. 

In  connecting  lines  to  a  tower,  deck  pipe  or  turret  pipe 
on  a  wagon,  about  one  length — 50  feet — of  extra  hose 
should  be  allowed.  This  is  to  give  the  apparatus  a  certain 
degree  of  mobility,  as  it  often  becomes  necessary  to  move 
a  tower  or  a  wagon,  and  should  there  be  no  spare  line  it 
cannot  be  accomplished.  Officers  ordered  to  connect  to 
water  towers  or  wagons  should  bear  this  in  mind.  Too 
much  rigidity  is  undesirable,  and  by  having  50  feet  of 
range  in  front  of  burning  building,  much  more  effective 
work  can  be  accomplished  especially  in  these  days  when 
motor  apparatus  is  so  easy  to  move. 

While  on  this  theme  it  may  be  wise  to  touch  briefly  on 
the  size  and  pressure  of  streams.  The  use  of  a  water 
tower,  or  of  a  wagon  turret  pipe,  presupposes  the  neces- 
sity for  water  under  high  pressure.  Some  chiefs  have 
contended  that  a  higher  pressure  than  100  Ibs.  at  the 
nozzle  is  impracticable,  saying  that  when  the  pressure  goes 
over  this  nozzle  velocity  it  is  so  high  that  the  stream  is 
torn  to  pieces  (whipped  into  a  foam)  causing  it  to  break 
and  scatter  a  few  feet  from  the  nozzle.  This  contention 
is  only  partly  true,  for,  admitting  that  the  higher  the 
nozzle  velocity  the  greater  the  tendency  of  the  stream  to 
disintegrate,  on  the  other  hand  the  higher  nozzle  velocity 
gives  a  greater  volume  and  a  much  heavier  striking  force. 
These  latter  are  prime  requisites  in  fire-fighting.  A  blow 
struck  or  a  thrust  delivered  with  moderate  strength 
has  not  the  same  effect  as  a  blow  with  good  mus- 
cle behind  it,  and  in  big  fires  it  is  often  the  power  of 
the  blow  which  counts.  The  stream  which  strikes  with 
force  will  knock  out  the  fire  as  a  prize  fighter  knocks  out 
his  opponent.  The  writer  favors  higher  pressure  when 


330  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

necessity  demands,  though  this  is  again  a  matter  of 
judgment. 

In  the  army  and  navy,  range  finders  are  employed  to 
enable  officers  in  charge  of  guns  to  sight  properly  and 
direct  their  fire.  Fire-fighters  operate  under  such  condi- 
tions that  many  times  they  are  unable  to  see  even  the 
buildings,  much  less  the  windows  or  openings  through 
which  the  streams  are  to  be  directed.  In  such  cases  all 
must  be  left  to  judgment  and  experience.  When  a  heavy 
body  of  fire  is  rolling  out  of  a  building  the  writer  would 
use  a  nozzle  pressure  of  from  100  to  150  pounds.  This 
gives  volume  and  that  striking  force,  which,  as  already 
stated,  are  absolutely  necessary  in  many  instances. 

Before  passing  from  the  subject  it  may  be  well  to  give 
a  rule  by  which  men  may  be  guided  in  placing  apparatus  of 
the  type  under  consideration.  Good  firemen  fight  at  close 
range,  and  it  is  seldom  that  the  occasion  arises  which 
keeps  them  at  a  distance,  but  under  such  circumstances  a 
stream  will  do  effective  work  allowing  one  foot  of  distance 
for  each  pound  of  nozzle  pressure  up  to  100  pounds. 
Above  this  point  it  is  a  little  less,  but  it  is  useless  to  go 
further  into  the  matter  as  the  occasion  should  never  arise 
when  it  is  necessary  to  fight  a  fire  at  a  greater  distance  than 
that  of  100  feet. 

In  some  instances  the  actual  distance  covered  by  the 
stream  is  greater  when  the  nozzle  is  at,  on  or  near  grade 
level.  The  point  of  delivery  may  be  50  feet  above  grade 
level,  and  those  who  care  to  amuse  themselves  and  at  the 
same  time  improve  their  knowledge,  can  use  the  old  rule; 
the  square  root  of  the  sum  of  the  squares  on  the  two 
sides  of  a  right  angled  triangle  is  equal  to  that  of  the 
hypotenuse.  The  main  point  is  to  know  the  distance  to 
which  a  certain  pressure  will  deliver  effective  fire  streams. 
Hydraulic  engineers  like  J.  F.  Freeman  and  others  give 
distances,  always  under  settled  weather  conditions,  but  a 
fire  chief  cannot  wait  for  a  calm  day,  so  the  confronting 
conditions  must  be  figured  out.  A  little  thought  will 
make  a  most  wonderful  improvement  and  it  will  be  found 


APPARATUS    FOR   FIRE-FIGHTING  331 

by  experience  that  men  can  estimate  within  a  few  pounds 
of  the  exact  pressure  at  a  nozzle.  This  will  be  treated 
exhaustively  in  the  appendix. 

In  dealing  with  the  effect  of  additional  lines  in  the 
tower,  deck  or  turret  pipes  it  must  be  stated  that,  in 
most  departments,  the  orders  require  a  company  stretch- 
ing to  the  tower,  deck  or  turret  pipes  to  lay  in  two  lines. 
Now,  if  a  two-inch  nozzle  is  used  on  the  tower  mast,  much 
better  streams  will  be  obtained  by  immediately  adding 
another  three-inch  line.  It  may  be  assumed  that  a  nozzle 
pressure  of  100  Ibs.  is  required  from  a  two-inch  nozzle; 
this  is  equivalent  to  a  discharge  of  1,200  gallons  of  water 
per  minute.  In  order  to  obtain  this  pressure,  each  of  the 
first  two  lines  would  be  delivering  600  gallons  per  minute, 
and  the  addition  of  the  third  line  would  cause  this  flow 
to  be  reduced  to  400  gallons  for  each  one.  As  the  friction 
loss  is  equal  to  the  square  of  the  velocity,  and  as  the 
velocity  is  governed  by  the  flow,  the  result  would  be  some- 
thing like  this:  400X400=160,000.  600X600=360,000, 
or  as  1 6  to  36.  Therefore  friction  loss  would  be  more  than 
twice  as  great  as  in  the  first  case. 

This  takes  the  writer  back  to  the  source  of  supply, 
whether  it  be  a  fire  engine,  a  high  pressure  pump  or  water 
under  force  of  gravity  which  becomes  the  determining 
factor  as  to  what  that  pressure  should  be.  If  it  is  decided 
to  force  1,200  gallons  per  minute  through  two  lines,  the 
pressure  must  be  higher  at  the  pump  than  if  the  same 
quantity  were  forced  through  three  lines,  in  order  to  give 
the  same  nozzle  pressure.  In  the  case  of  water  delivered 
under  high  pressure  by  pump  or  force  of  gravity,  where 
there  is  a  predetermined  pressure,  the  additional  line  gives 
a  better  flow,  less  friction  loss  and  consequently  a  higher 
nozzle  velocity.  The  chief  officer  must  determine  whether 
it  is  better  to  attach  the  additional  line,  thereby  taking  up 
the  services  of  an  engine,  or  to  use  the  third  opening  in 
the  hydrant  to  which  a  line  might  be  connected  for  service 
at  some  other  point,  where  it  was  badly  needed. 

In  this  chapter  the  writer  has  had  no  thought  of  actually 


332  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

discussing  fire  strategy;  all  he  has  hoped  to  do  has  been 
to  point  out  some  of  the  situations  which  develop  at  fires, 
and  to  impress  upon  those  responsible  that  their  minds 
should  act  quickly  and  that  all  contingencies  should  be  met 
with  promptitude. 


CHAPTER  XXIII 

TWO   PLATOON   SYSTEM 

ANY  consideration  of  the  factors  governing  fire-fighting 
would  be  incomplete  were  the  personal  equation  neglected, 
in  other  words  the  status  of  the  fireman  in  relation  to  the 
community  as  a  whole.  The  foregoing  pages  have  made 
it  abundantly  evident  that  he  who  wishes  to  follow  the  call- 
ing as  a  life's  work  must  be  possessed  of  qualities  out  of 
the  common.  Apart  from  pluck  and  physical  endurance, 
he  must  be  prepared  to  attack  the  subject  from  its  scien- 
tific standpoint  and  to  devote  to  it  his  undivided  interest 
and  attention,  that  is  to  say  if  he  would  rise  superior  to 
his  volunteer  predecessors.  And  it  must  never  be  forgotten 
that  these  latter  brought  unlimited  enthusiasm  to  their  self- 
imposed  task,  if  nothing  else.  But  in  these  days,  fire-fight- 
ing has  passed  the  stage  of  the  dilettante ;  it  has  grown  into 
a  serious  science  and  as  such  has  a  right  to  demand  that 
its  votaries  shall  be  experts  in  their  own  line  and  that 
the  huge  responsibilities  of  lives  and  property  entrusted 
to  their  care  shall  be  no  haphazard  proceeding,  but  the 
result  of  serious  consideration  and  selection.  Now  latterly 
a  feeling  has  sprung  up,  which  roughly  propounds  the 
theory  that  the  fireman  should  be  the  hired  servant  of 
the  municipality,  nothing  more  and  nothing  less.  His  en- 
gagement is  to  be  of  a  temporary  nature,  bounded  only 
by  so  many  hours7  work  per  diem  for  so  much  pay.  He 
is  to  be  considered,  when  not  actually  on  duty,  as  free 
as  the  butcher,  the  baker  and  the  candlestick-maker  and 
from  the  moment  when  he  leaves  his  fire  station,  what 
he  does  and  how  he  does  it  is  to  be  his  own  business  and 

333 


334  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

no  one  else's.  This  is  to  all  intents  and  purposes  what 
the  advocates  of  the  "Two  Platoon  System"  would  have 
the  public  believe  is  to  the  advantage  of  the  Fire  De- 
partments the  world  over.  For  twelve  hours  the  fireman 
is  to  be  on  duty,  and  for  the  other  twelve  he  is  to  be  a 
private  citizen,  free  from  all  trammels  and  restrictions, 
which  might  tend  to  hamper  his  sacred  liberty.  It  is  a  high 
sounding  and  truly  attractive  doctrine,  only,  having  due  re- 
gard for  the  efficiency  of  this  most  important  of  depart- 
ments, how  can  such  a  method  be  expected  to  yield  satis- 
factory results?  In  France  and  Germany,  the  barrack 
system  is  worked  no  doubt  to  an  extreme,  which  would  be 
distasteful  and  unpopular  in  any  country  where  conscrip- 
tion was  not  the  general  practice.  There,  the  fireman  is 
practically  under  military  law,  and  the  slightest  breaches 
of  discipline  are  punished  with  martial  severity,  whilst 
individual  freedom  is  necessarily  much  curtailed.  But 
there  is  no  advantage  in  riding  a  hobby  to  death  and  both 
in  England  and  in  some  cities  in  the  United  States,  a  via 
media  has  been  evolved,  different  in  detail  but  alike  in 
essentials,  which  insures  efficiency  of  service  and  disci- 
pline with  the  least  possible  inconvenience  to  those  con- 
cerned. In  England,  the  fireman  is  a  municipal  servant, 
he  is  provided  with  quarters  whether  married  or  single 
and  is  granted  so  much  leave  every  year.  In  addition  he 
receives  free  medical  attention  and  certain  allowances  ac- 
cording to  the  town  in  which  he  happens  to  be  serving. 
But  all  the  time,  when  not  absent  with  permission,  he  is 
available  for  duty,  as  is  the  soldier  or  the  sailor.  This 
appears  a  common-sense  system  of  enabling  a  municipality 
to  assess  with  some  degree  of  certainty  the  probable  fire 
risks  it  will  be  called  upon  to  incur,  should  it  either  in- 
crease or  decrease  the  fire  department,  while  it  can  always 
count  upon  the  services  of  its  enlisted  men.  New  York 
has  gone  further  and  allows  its  firemen  to  live  at  home, 
have  their  meals  there  and  to  spend  their  spare  time  in 
the  society  of  their  families,  far  removed  from  the  noise 
and  bustle  of  the  average  fire-station.  In  fact,  the  system 


TWO   PLATOON    SYSTEM  335 

evolved  may  be  taken  as  one  of  encouragement  to  home 
life  and  happy  surroundings,  the  antithesis  of  arbitrary 
militarism  and  the  curtailing  of  the  individual's  freedom. 
Only  the  demands  of  the  situation  are  such,  that  it  is  im- 
perative that  at  all  times  and  seasons,  the  men  of  the  de- 
partment, except  when  specially  excused,  should  be 
available  for  instant  duty.  Now  though  comparisons  may 
be  odious,  what  alternative  system  is  advocated  by  the 
upholders  of  the  two  platoon  theory?  For  twelve  hours 
one  watch  or  division  of  men  is  to  be  employed,  their 
places  to  be  taken  by  another  group  of  similar  strength. 
And  supposing  some  great  conflagration  occurs,  demand- 
ing the  combined  energies  of  the  entire  department,  what 
then?  Presumably  messengers  would  have  to  be  employed 
to  whip  up  the  contingent  off  duty,  who  from  their  stand- 
ing would  be  within  their  rights  in  demanding  "overtime," 
who  perhaps  could  not  be  found  and  if  found  might  demur 
to  answering  a  call  which  was  not  obligatory,  and  who  from 
their  anomalous  position  might  be  forgiven  if  they  imported 
an  opera  bouffe  touch  into  subsequent  proceedings  and 
kept  a  fire  burning  so  long  as  might  suit  the  financial 
status  of  those  principally  concerned.  In  addition  what 
guarantee  would  be  forthcoming  that  the  night  shift  would 
arrive  in  the  best  of  conditions  to  carry  out  arduous  work, 
if  called  upon  so  to  do.  It  has  been  proved  from  ex- 
periments made  along  these  lines  that  it  is  by  no  means 
uncommon  for  the  so-called  fireman  to  practise  his  trade 
as  bartender  or  undertaker  all  day  and  then  turn  up  at 
the  station  in  the  evening  for  fire  duty,  in  order  to  make  a 
little  "extra."  It  goes  without  saying  that  that  species  of 
extra  time  is  costly  alike  to  human  life  and  property  and 
that  a  fire  department  built  upon  such  principles  is  indeed 
founded  upon  sand.  The  truth  of  the  whole  matter  would 
appear  to  be,  in  the  opinion  of  the  writer,  that  amongst 
the  younger  generation  there  is  a  strong  aversion  to  dis- 
cipline, even  of  the  broadest  kind,  which  interferes  not  at 
all  with  the  liberty  of  the  subject  and  is  only  ordained 
that  some  systematization  of  duty  and  responsibility  may 


336  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

result.  Further,  it  is  of  paramount  importance  in  these 
days  of  labour  unrest,  that  any  body  so  vitally  essential 
to  the  welfare  of  the  public  at  large  should  be  safeguarded 
from  any  interference  from  labour  organization  outside  it- 
self. Once  the  Department  becomes  analogous  with  street 
railways  or  drygoods  stores  for  its  labour  supply,  then  a 
long  farewell  may  be  said  to  any  continuity  of  action, 
of  policy,  of  training,  and  of  general  organization.  Men 
will  come  and  go  at  will,  bearing  in  mind  that  their  status 
is  no  different  from  that  of  any  other  daily  worker,  esprit 
de  corps — a  vital  force  in  fire-fighting — will  vanish,  and  in 
place  will  be  instituted  a  body,  devoid  of  any  other  consid- 
eration than  that  of  making  that  little  bit  "extra."  An  in- 
spiring ideal,  in  truth. 


RESUSCITATING   FIREMEN    OVERCOME   BY    SMOKE. 


CHAPTER  XXIV 

UNDERWRITERS   AND   SALVAGE   CORPS 

ALTHOUGH  not  actually  connected  by  organization  with 
the  Fire  Department,  at  least  in  the  United  States  and 
England,  the  Salvage  Corps  is  none  the  less  an  important 
essential  in  the  whole  scheme,  and  as  such  demands  some 
attention  in  a  volume  of  this  kind.  The  business  of  the 
fire-fighter  is,  as  his  name  indicates,  to  fight  fires;  the 
saving  of  property  and  merchandise  from  the  effects  of 
water  is  the  particular  field  of  the  Salvage  Corps,  and 
thus  it  is  that  separate  organizations  have  been  evolved  for 
this  express  purpose. 

In  New  York  this  work  is  officially  recognized  and 
supported  by  all  the  insurance  companies  doing  business 
in  the  city,  supreme  executive  control  at  fires  being  vested 
in  the  officer  in  charge  of  the  fire-fighters.  In  fact,  the 
Salvage  Corps  might  not  inaptly  be  compared  with  the 
medical  and  nursing  branch  of  an  army.  A  battle  occurs, 
and  obviously  the  combatants  have  no  time  to  look  after 
the  wounded  or  to  succour  the  dying.  Their  business  is 
first  and  foremost  the  crumpling  up  and  the  defeat  of 
their  antagonist,  and  until  that  is  accomplished  all  other 
considerations  are  relegated  to  the  background.  But  hu- 
manity demands  that  the  stricken  shall  be  saved  if  possible 
and  that  suffering  shall  be  alleviated;  hence  the  presence 
of  a  large  staff  of  doctors  and  nurses  who  otherwise 
have  no  connection  with  the  events  of  the  moment.  They 
are  distinct  from  the  fighters,  but  admittedly  necessary  to 
them.  Further,  of  course,  they  are  under  the  supreme 
authority  of  the  general  commanding;  anything  in  the 

337 


338  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

nature  of  divided  control  would  be  fatal  alike  to  all  con- 
cerned. 

This  brief  explanation  is  rendered  necessary  since  the 
functions  and  position  of  those  operating  in  salvage  corps 
is  too  little  understood,  and  in  fact  their  present  status  of 
a  semi-independent  entity  is  anomalous  and  not  in  the 
best  interests  of  all  parties.  Now  who  are  the  persons 
involved?  Firstly,  property  owners  themselves  who, 
whether  insured  or  no,  are  at  least  presumed  to  desire  as 
little  destruction  wrought  to  their  goods  as  is  possible, 
which  can  often  be  accomplished  by  covering  up,  wiping 
down  and  pumping  out.  Secondly,  the  insurance  compan- 
ies, since,  with  this  assistance,  they  may  save  the  wastage 
of  a  complete  loss  and  at  any  rate  realize  a  small  propor- 
tion of  the  risks  involved.  Hence  it  is  that  a  regularly 
paid  corps  of  professional  salvage  men  is  maintained  at 
the  expense  of  these  companies  in  some  of  the  great  towns 
of  America  and  in  London,  those  in  the  United  States 
being  generally  known  as  "Fire  Patrols." 

The  strength  of  the  New  York  corps  consists  of  38 
officers  and  190  men,  divided  into  ten  patrols.  The  sal- 
vage wagons  in  service  are  of  the  usual  type  carrying 
such  apparatus  as  covers,  door  openers,  axes,  shovels, 
squeegees,  and  other  equipment  especially  suitable  to  their 
needs.  During  the  last  year  for  which  figures  are  available 
8,415  outbreaks  were  attended,  the  most  calls  in  any  one 
month  being  802  in  December.  In  that  month  the  dura- 
tion or  service  amounted  to  755  hours,  while  3,531  covers 
were  spread  and  136  roof  covers  placed  in  position. 
Chicago  maintains  a  corps  of  eight  companies  consisting 
of  71  permanent,  and  33  auxiliary,  men,  the  work  accom- 
plished, having  due  regard  to  the  territory  involved,  being 
efficient. 

Incidentally,  annual  reports  are  issued  giving  statistics 
anent  the  forces  together  with  figures  of  the  values  they 
have  protected,  which,  of  course,  is  as  it  should  be,  and  is 
only  mentioned  as  a  comparison  with  the  extraordinary 
anachronistic  condition  of  affairs  in  London.  Here  is  the 


UNDERWRITERS   AND    SALVAGE    CORPS     339 

largest  city  in  the  world  with  property  values  almost  beyond 
estimate.  It  is  asserted  that  the  "per  capita"  loss  is  insig- 
nificant compared  with  that  of  American  cities,  but  at  the 
same  time  it  would  be  imagined  that  salvage  service  would 
be  carried  out  upon  certain  well  established  lines.  Yet,  as 
a  matter  of  fact,  the  London  Salvage  Corps,  to  give  it  its 
official  title,  is  a  purely  private  organization,  equipped  and 
supported  by  certain  of  those  insurance  companies  under- 
writing fire  risks.  The  word  "certain"  is  used  advisedly, 
since  not  all  those  dealing  in  the  local  fire  risks  subscribe. 
Hence  it  is  a  purely  private  undertaking,  and,  as  such, 
responsible  to  no  public  body,  except  in  the  same  degree 
as  a  private  individual.  No  annual  report  is  published, 
except  to  those  directly  concerned,  the  strength  of  the 
corps  in  officers  and  men  is  not  officially  issued,  and  any 
statistics  of  property  values^  percentage  of  losses,  etc.,  if 
tabulated  at  all,  are  certainly  not  forthcoming  from  this 
body,  at  present  benignly  commanded  by  Colonel  Fox. 
Of  the  annual  report,  such  as  it  is,  the  following  excerpt 
from  a  letter  speaks  for  itself:  '  ...  at  the  end  of  the 
year  a  brief  confidential  statement  is  given  out  to  the 
members,  which  statement  is  not  illuminating  in  details." 
In  other  large  English  cities,  salvage  arrangements  are  al- 
together lacking,  as  is  also  the  case  in  the  smaller  Ameri- 
can centres  of  population.  The  reason  for  this  is  not  far 
to  seek.  If  the  insurance  companies  have  to  pay  the  piper 
they  cannot  be  expected  to  establish  in  communities  with 
minor  property  values,  organizations  which,  on  the  face  of 
it,  must  be  costly  experiments. 

Hence,  two  clauses  of  objection  may  be  framed  upon 
the  existing  state  of  affairs,  which  cast  no  slur  upon  those 
intimately  concerned  but  are  simply  concomitants  of  an 
archaic  system.  Firstly,  no  matter  how  cordial  the  rela- 
tionship existing  between  the  fighting  force  and  the  sal- 
vage corps,  and  no  matter  how  rigorously  it  is  insisted 
that  the  Chief  is  in  supreme  control  at  an  outbreak, 
with  the  best  intentions  in  the  world,  on  occasion,  misunder- 
standings are  bound  to  arise  which,  if  not  hazardous,  are 


340  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

at  least  unpleasant,  unnecessary  and  not  in  the  best  interests 
of  discipline.  There  is  always  the  natural  tendency  for 
the  subordinate  to  resent  taking  orders  from  any  other 
than  his  superior  officer,  and  though  the  Chief  and 
his  aides  may  be  recognized  by  the  non-combatant  forces 
as  in  executive  command,  at  a  large  fire  neither  the  chief 
nor  his  staff  can  be  everywhere,  and  orders  have  to  be 
transmitted  which,  to  comply  with  the  hard  and  fast  eti- 
quette of  the  situation,  would  be  cumbersome  and 
impossible.  Therefore  it  would  appear  a  common  sense 
policy  to  arrange  some  form  of  amalgamation.  This 
should  offer  no  insuperable  difficulty,  as  some  method  of 
meeting  the  additional  cost  could  be  evolved  in  consultation 
with  the  insurance  companies. 

Which  introduces  the  second  clause. 

As  at  present  arranged  the  maintenance  constitutes  a 
severe  tax  upon  those  concerned,  and  there  is  no  doubt 
that  better  administration  would  result  from  the  union. 
In  addition,  there  is  no  reason  why  the  individual  property 
owner  should  not  bear  his  share  of  the  costs  involved  in 
the  saving  of  his  goods  from  unnecessary  damage  by 
water,  consequent  upon  fighting  a  fire.  Of  course  it  may 
be  argued  that  if  he  is  already  insured,  he  is  paying  twice, 
but  the  adjustment  of  premiums  under  such  circumstances 
would  be  a  matter  of  no  great  moment. 

Certainly,  in  New  York  and  in  America  generally,  there 
is  this  to  be  said  for  the  salvage  corps,  namely,  that  they 
are  responsible  bodies  maintained  by  statute  and  thus  under 
the  supervision  of  recognized  authorities.  In  England, 
however,  there  appears  to  be  a  total  absence  of  organized 
departmental  control,  and  the  relationship  existing  between 
the  London  County  Council,  which  supports  the  London 
Fire  Brigade,  and  the  London  Salvage  Corps,  which  is 
as  much  a  private  concern  as  William  Whitely  or  John 
Wanamaker,  is  purely  dependent  upon  the  good  will  of 
the  former.  In  fact,  to  go  a  step  further  it  is  hard  to 
see  what  means  could  be  adopted  if  the  County  Council 
vetoed  the  presence  of  the  salvage  corps  at  fires.  Of 


UNDERWRITERS   AND   SALVAGE   CORPS     341 

course  such  an  occasion  would  never  arise,  only,  in  mar- 
shaling fire  forces,  as  in  marshaling  the  array  of  an  army, 
nothing  should  be  left  to  chance,  nothing  should  be  hap- 
hazard and  all  contingencies  should  be  foreguarded.  And 
since  the  general  commands  a  fighting  machine  composed 
of  combatants  and  civil  units,  the  admiral  a  personnel,  a 
proportion  of  whom  are  either  clerks  or  semi-laymen,  so 
should  a  fire-fighter  and  his  non-combatant  ally  serve  under 
one  flag,  recognize  one  chief  and  be  brothers  in  a  common 
cause.  There  is  no  good  reason  why  this  should  not  be 
accomplished,  and  that  till  now  it  has  not  been  con- 
summated has  been  due  largely  to  the  apathy  of  those  in 
responsible  control.  Any  general  consideration  of  the 
problems  connected  with  fire  insurance  is  quite  beyond  the 
scope  of  this  volume.  At  the  same  time,  however,  it  may 
be  of  interest  to  quote  certain  comparative  data  and,  in 
addition,  the  writer  is  happy  to  give  prominence  to  the 
good  work  being  accomplished  by  underwriters  in  the 
United  States. 

It  is  a  common  failure  in  America,  generally  to  con- 
demn certain  social  factors  as  being  responsible  for  this, 
that  or  the  other  occurrence.  The  acute  observer  will  have 
noticed  that  under  no  circumstances  is  the  individual  unit 
ever  responsible  for  the  sequence  of  events;  come  murder, 
rapine,  pillage  or  earthquake  it  is  always  that  inconsiderate 
"somebody  else"  corporate  or  incorporate,  who  is  to  blame. 
Never  under  any  circumstances,  has  that  wonderful  in- 
dividual unit  been  in  error.  And  the  same  might  appositely 
be  said  of  the  press.  Clever  writers  with  brilliant  pens 
overflowing  with  ink,  between  eleven  o'clock  at  night  and 
two  in  the  morning,  will,  with  the  utmost  complaisance 
label  corporations  or  persons  in  a  genial  way  as  "rogues," 
"vagabonds"  or  "villains,"  excepting  always  that  their 
readers  will  take  their  remarks  with  that  proverbial  grain 
of  salt  which  is  necessary  to  a  true  appreciation  of  the 
journalistic  cuisine.  Unfortunately,  the  average  reader 
is  stolid,  unsuspicious  and  indiscriminating.  He  rarely  sees 
beyond  his  nose,  he  never  reads  between  the  lines  and  he 


342  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

is  as  a  child  in  the  complicated  moves  in  the  game  of 
publicity  and  policy  pursued  by  many.  Which  remarks 
may  be  accepted  for  what  they  are  worth.  Few  acquainted 
with  public  life  will  honestly  contra  vert  them,  and  for  the 
rest,  their  opinion  is  of  equal  value  too,  though  of  far  less 
weight  than  that  of  the  writers  mentioned.  Thus  it  is, 
that  a  compliment  must  be  paid  to  the  National  Board  of 
Fire  Underwriters,  which,  in  the  United  States,  is  doing 
a  great  deal  toward  the  education  of  the  general  public 
in  the  matter  of  fire  risks. 

The  following  excerpt  taken  from  the  address  of  an 
officer  of  the  Northern  Assurance  Company  of  London, 
is  worthy  of  quotation:  "The  phenomenal  growth  of 
this  country  (the  United  States),  of  which  all  its  citizens 
are  proud,  has  been  accompanied  by  the  creation  of  enor- 
mous commercial  and  manufacturing  establishments,  great 
concentration  of  property  values,  and  congested  areas  in 
our  large  cities,  each  containing  hundreds  of  millions  of 
dollars  of  values  subject  to  destruction  by  fire.  This  ex- 
traordinary commercial  and  manufacturing  growth  makes 
necessary  a  corresponding  increase  in  credits.  To  meet 
this  need  for  larger  credits  the  banks  have  been  made  larger 
and  are  being  made  larger  all  the  time.  One  of  the  most 
important  and  essential  foundations  of  credit  is  fire  insur- 
ance. This  is  now  so  well  understood  that  it  is  unneces- 
sary to  dilate  upon  it.  As  the  great  growth  in  business 
requires  a  corresponding  increase  in  credits  which  in  turn 
makes  necessary  larger  banking  facilities,  so  the  concentra- 
tion of  values  all  over  the  country  in  individual  businesses 
and  in  congested  city  centres  makes  it  necessary  that  fire 
insurance  companies  should  have  large  and  increasing 
reserves  and  loss  paying  abilities.  Under  a  general  system 
of  State-made  rates,  fire  insurance  companies  would  un- 
doubtedly find  themselves  unable  to  build  up  large  reserves 
and  there  would  be  no  inducement  to  make  them  large  by 
capitalization.  The  welfare  of  the  country  requires  that 
fire  insurance  companies  should  have  the  opportunity  to 
create  large  reserves  with  which  to  meet  large  conflagration 


JIBE-FIGHTING  PRACTICE. 


UNDERWRITERS   AND   SALVAGE   CORPS     343 

losses  such  as  have  several  times  occurred  and  must  be 
expected  to  occur  again.  Inability  to  meet  such  crises 
would  cause  serious  and  perhaps  dangerous  panics.  The 
average  underwriting  profit  made  by  all  the  companies 
has  been  paltry,  as  will  hereafter  appear,  and  furnishes  no 
justification  for  State  Rating  Board  laws  on  the  ground 
of  excessive  profits.  The  smallness  of  the  average  under- 
writing profit  shows  that  the  dividends  to  stockholders 
have  been  paid  from  interest  and  dividends  from  invest- 
ments, and  also  that  reserves  have  been  augmented  from 
the  same  sources.  It  is,  therefore,  apparent  that  excessive 
rates  have  not  been  charged  and  the  proceeds  distributed 
to  stockholders."  The  above  may  be  an  "ex-parte"  state- 
ment, but  on  the  face  of  it,  it  contains  a  thorough  realiza- 
tion of  the  condition  of  the  fire  risks  in  America. 

Time  and  again  it  is  insisted  by  the  underwriters  that  it 
is  the  conflagration  hazard  which  renders  any  approach  to 
systematic  or  scientific  underwriting  practically  impossi- 
ble. If,  as  in  Vienna,  it  were  feasible  to  confine  every 
fire  to  the  building  in  which  it  originated,  which  can  obvi- 
ously be  accomplished  when  houses  are  constructed  upon 
a  detached  system,  then  the  problem  would  be  simplified. 
If,  as  in  Germany,  a  man  having  a  fire  on  his  premises  is 
held  guilty  of  misdemeanor  until  he  proves  that  its  incep- 
tion was  beyond  his  control,  or  if,  as  is  operative  in  France, 
a  man  having  a  fire  extending  beyond  his  own  premises 
were  held  financially  responsible,  then  again  the  problem 
would  be  simplified.  But,  probably,  the  sanest  and  most 
hopeful  method  of  combating  the  huge  fire  losses  in  the, 
United  States  is  by  the  gradual  instruction  of  the  masses 
to  a  proper  realization  of  fire  control  and  what  it  means. 
To  this  end  the  National  Board  of  Fire  Underwriters  has 
most  distinctly  added  its  quota  of  assistance  by  the  publi- 
cation of  useful  brochures  and  by  the  issuance  of  bulletins 
apropos  to  certain  occasions  when  fires  most  commonly 
occur  such  as  Christmas  Day  with  its  Christmas  trees  and 
candles,  and  Independence  Day  (July  4th)  with  its  in- 
discriminate use  of  fireworks.  No  one,  however  partizan, 


344  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

can  deny  that  this  is  useful  work  and  of  the  greatest 
public  benefit.  Annually  the  fire  loss  in  the  United  States 
may  be  roughly  assessed  at  $250,000,000  or  59,999,999 
pounds  sterling.  This  is  naturally  only  a  broad  esti- 
mate, for  to  be  irritatingly  accurate  the  estimated  loss 
for  1911  was  $217,000,000,  though  in  1906  it  was  over 
$500,000,000,  the  latter  figure,  to  be  sure,  due  to  the  San 
Francisco  disaster.  But  taking  even  $200,000,000  as  the 
annual  wastage,  it  would  be  profoundly  interesting  to 
know  how  much  of  that  colossal  total  was  due  to  the  care- 
lessness of  the  individual.  It  is  beyond  the  ken  of  man 
how  to  arrive  at  such  figures,  but  the  writer  can  testify 
from  personal  experience,  and  has  emphasized  again  and 
again  in  the  preceding  pages,  that  the  human  element  plays 
a  preponderating  part  in  providing  work  for  the  fire- 
fighter. 

There  is  always  something  fascinating  in  picturing  in 
the  mind's  eye  all  the  wonderful  things  which  might  be, 
were  such  and  such  a  factor  eliminated  from  the  social 
fabric.  The  pacifist  who  dreams  of  disarmament  and  in- 
ternational peace  is  wont  to  enlarge  upon  what  the  reduc- 
tion of  the  Army  and  Navy  estimates  would  mean  to  the 
masses.  A  secretary  of  the  Treasury,  or  Chancellor  of 
the  Exchequer  with  a  hundred  million  dollars  unallo- 
cated to  any  particular  purpose  in  these  dreary  days  is  as 
rare  as  the  "Dodo,"  in  fact  he  is  non-existent,  but  sup- 
posing some  such  amazing  bouleversement  of  conditions 
did  occur.  It  is  only  possible  to  surmise  how  that  money 
might  be  spent  for  the  good  of  the  community.  It  appears 
on  the  face  of  it  so  fantastic,  so  irrelevant  to  the  issues 
of  the  moment  and  so  far  removed  from  practical  politics. 
And  yet  implant  in  the  individual  the  fundamental  fea- 
tures of  the  dangers  of  fire  and  of  the  easiness  of  those 
ordinary  precautions  which  in  themselves  are  simple  to 
the  verge  of  puerility,  but  in  the  aggregate  count  for  so 
much,  then  there  might  be  a  reasonable  chance  of  the 
materialization  of  that  seemingly  far-fetched  dream. 

Hence,  all  means  to  that  end  are  to  be  encouraged,  and 


UNDERWRITERS   AND   SALVAGE   CORPS     345 

the  work  being  accomplished  by  the  National  Board  of 
Underwriters  is  deserving  of  more  than  passing  praise  on 
that  score.  For,  that  there  is  need  of  some  guidance,  can 
be  gleaned  from  the  following  figures,  which,  making 
every  allowance  for  climatic  extremes,  as  shown,  a  fruitful 
source  of  fires,  and  constructive  encouragement  to  the 
flames  in  the  shape  of  the  employment  of  wood  as  building 
material,  still  evidence  a  remarkable  gulf  between 
fire  risks  in  Europe  and  the  United  States.  Thus,  whereas 
the  "per  capita"  loss  in  the  United  States  for  the  year 
1911  was  $2.62,  for  England  it  averaged  only  53c, 
for  France  8  ic,  for  Germany  2ic,  and  for  Russia  only 
8c.  These  figures  are  not  absolutely  conclusive,  since  they 
are  based  upon  the  reports  sent  in  from  centres  of  popula- 
tion and  no  account  can  well  be  taken  of  the  country  in 
sparsely  populated  districts.  But  as  regards  the  United 
States,  it  may  be  remarked  that  the  298  cities  upon  which 
the  average  is  framed,  represent  a  population  of  31,000,000 
people,  among  whom  there  is  "fire  protection."  In  no 
foreign  city  does  the  "per  capita"  loss  approach  five  dol- 
lars (one  pound),  though,  excluding  conflagrations,  32 
cities  in  the  United  States  surpass  that  figure.  The  highest 
fire  loss  in  England,  curiously  enough,  was  in  the  ancient 
city  of  York,  which,  with  a  population  of  only  82,000 
shows  a  "per  capita"  loss  of  $2.73  (n/ — ),  which  com- 
pares unfavorably  with  the  town  of  Yonkers,  near  New 
York,  with  the  same  population  and  a  "per  capita"  loss  of 
$1.73.  For  London  the  "per  capita"  loss  was  540  based 
upon  a  population  of  seven  and  a  quarter  million  people, 
which  evidently  included  its  suburbs  and  not  the  county 
proper.  The  "per  capita"  loss  in  Paris  was  6oc,  for  Ham- 
burg only  i8c,  for  St.  Petersburg  93c,  for  Moscow  $1.46 
— exemplifying  excellently  the  rise  in  loss  occasioned  by 
extremes  of  climate  and  wooden  buildings — while  the 
city  of  Vancouver  heads  the  list  with  $2.61. 

These  are  statistics  which  cannot  fail  to  provide  food 
for  the  thoughtful.  For  fire  wastage  is  a  literal  translation 
of  the  phrase  commonly  used  to  emphasize  the  extravagance 


346  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

of  the  individual,  "burning  money."  Finding  money  for 
the  provision  of  armaments,  which  may  never  be  used,  is 
often  decried  as  hideous  waste,  though  there  is  something 
tangible  to  show  for  the  expenditure,  what  then  can  be 
said  in  defence  of  a  loss  to  every  man,  woman  and  child 
in  the  United  States  of  over  two  dollars  per  annum,  with 
a  visible  result  only  of  charred  ruins  and  possible  suffering? 


CHAPTER  XXV 

CONCLUSION 

IT  is  the  experience  of  most  writers  on  themes  peculiarly 
their  own,  that  when  the  time  comes  to  surrender  the  pen, 
only  then  do  they  realize  how  much  more  should  have  been 
added  to  the  material  collected,  how  much  more  clearly  cer- 
tain details  might  have  been  explained  and  how  altogether 
inadequate  is  the  sum  total  of  their  labours.  And  so  it  is 
as  regards  this  work.  The  term  "fire-fighting"  possesses 
such  an  immense  significance  that  it  would  require  many 
portly  tomes  to  deal  exhaustively  with  all  its  intricate  prob- 
lems. For  as  fast  as  one  offshoot  receives  attention,  an- 
other crops  up  hydra-like  and  it  becomes  a  question  of  seri- 
ous consideration  what  proportion  of  notice,  if  any,  should 
be  allotted  to  many  subsidiary  branches  of  the  main  theme. 
Thus  it  is  only  feasible  by  using  judgment  to  scrape  the 
surface  of  the  vast  field  of  investigation,  and,  by  as  skilful 
handling  as  may  be  to  sow  the  seeds  of  fresh  thought  in 
the  public  mind,  which  in  time  may  germinate  and  bring 
forth  a  rich  harvest  of  action.  This  indeed  has  been  the 
chief  inspiration  of  this  volume.  Those  interested  scien- 
tifically will,  it  is  hoped,  have  found  the  wherewithal  to 
whet  their  appetite  for  further  research  and  there  is  no 
doubt  that  there  are  problems  without  number  awaiting 
the  probe  of  the  investigator  in  the  domain  of  "fire  con- 
trol," problems  which  demand  the  maximum  of  mental 
efficiency,  patience  and  determination.  But  the  larger  por- 
tion of  the  reading  public  demand  the  note  of  human  in- 
terest and  as  far  as  lay  within  the  scope  of  the  material, 
this  has  been  supplied,  for  it  is  a  trite  commonplace,  that 

347 


348  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

to  arouse  enthusiasm  or  a  proper  realization  of  the  true 
inwardness  of  any  subject,  appeal  must  be  made  to  the 
senses.  And  it  appears  of  paramount  importance  to  the 
writer  that  "the  man  in  the  street"  should  be  aroused  from 
the  lethargy  he  habitually  displays  over  questions  apper- 
taining to  fires  and  their  prevention.  Terrible  lessons  are 
taught,  and  as  speedily  forgotten,  not  because  the  individual 
is  unable  to  grasp  the  significance  of  the  occurrences,  but 
rather  because  the  teachers  are  intangible  elemental  forces 
which  cause  disaster  and  await  the  skill  of  the  -human  in- 
structor to  amplify  and  explain  their  lessons.  And  it  may 
be  said  that  until  recently  such  instructors  were  sadly  lack- 
ing. 

In  the  first  place  the  search  after  wealth  is  so  keen 
now-a-days  and  monopolizes  attention  to  such  an  extent, 
that  occupations  promising  only  a  moderate  financial  suffi- 
ciency are  to  a  certain  degree  shunned  by  the  enterprising 
and  the  ambitious  with  the  result  that  those  enlisting  in 
their  ranks  are  often  devoid  of  that  enthusiasm,  the  mag- 
netism of  which  is  so  overwhelming  that  it  communicates 
itself  to  others  and  sweeps  into  its  net  the  youth  and  strength 
of  a  nation.  With  such  material,  what  can  be  expected? 
Any  individual  adopting  a  calling  merely  as  a  means  to 
obtaining  the  bare  wherewithal  to  exist  rarely  earns  his 
wage.  His  duties  are  rendered  just  so  efficiently  as  to 
escape  censure  and  no  more.  Now,  without  any  savor  of 
supreme  conceit,  the  writer  hazards  the  statement  that  for 
a  change  towards  better  things  the  fire  departments  in  the 
United  States  are  responsible.  In  the  first  place  the  mag- 
nitude of  the  risks  involved  has  impressed  itself  upon  the 
thinking  portion  of  the  community  and  it  has  at  length 
been  realized  that  if  an  army  and  navy  are  necessary  ad- 
juncts to  the  safety  of  the  Republic,  then  most  assuredly 
the  organization  of  a  first-class  fire-fighting  force  is  neces- 
sary for  the  safety  of  the  homes  of  the  people.  And  that 
is  the  chief  factor  in  the  situation;  financial  losses  may 
be  huge,  but  they  will  not  appeal  to  the  heart  of  a  com- 
munity to  the  extent  of  the  death  of  one  child  by  the  flames. 


CONCLUSION  349 

To  deal  seriatim  with  the  crucial  points  of  each  chapter  in 
the  foregoing  pages  is  out  of  place  in  this  conclusion,  since 
if  each  in  turn  has  not  been  sufficiently  conclusive  then  the 
carpenter  in  this  instance  can  not  blame  his  tools,  but 
himself.  However,  it  may  have  been  noticed  that  on  occa- 
sion, comparisons,  those  most  odious  of  things,  have  been 
instituted,  while  criticism  has  seldom  been  far  distant  when 
dealing  with  foreign  departments.  It  almost  seems  super- 
fluous to  state  that  whatever  has  been  penned  has  been  ac- 
tuated by  no  carping  spirit,  but  rather  to  bring  out  some 
obscure  point  or  to  emphasize  some  necessary  moral.  If 
every  fire  department  was  organized  on  precisely  similar 
lines,  then  assuredly  the  fire  fiend  would  play  more  havoc 
than  it  habitually  does,  since  in  fire-fighting  as  in  other 
spheres  of  life,  one  man's  meat  is  another's  poison,  and 
most  assuredly  what  will  suit  the  requirements  of  one  local- 
ity will  most  hopelessly  fail  in  another.  Further,  criticism 
is  a  life-giving  sap  to  any  industry  or  profession,  or,  for 
that  matter,  to  any  human  enterprise.  Devoid  of  this 
spur,  achievement  would  quickly  cease  from  sheer  in- 
anition, and  inasmuch  as  trees  from  time  to  time  need 
pruning  for  their  better  growth,  he  would  be  a  sorry  gar- 
dener who  hesitated  over  the  task,  lest  perchance  he  might 
injure  some  branch  or  offshoot.  Hence  the  writer  hopes 
that  all  his  remarks  will  be  accepted  with  the  same  good 
nature  as  that  with  which  they  are  offered.  For  there  is 
need  today  for  cohesion  and  mutual  support  amongst  those, 
who  have  made,  and  are  making,  of  fire-fighting,  their  life's 
work.  This  applies  to  all  countries  without  exception, 
though  there  may  be  some  slight  difference  in  usage  and  or- 
ganization. It  is  a  peculiar  reflection  on  human  character 
and  not  altogether  a  pleasant  one,  that  recognition  of  ser- 
vices rendered  is  too  often  overlooked,  unless  there  is  an 
accompaniment  of  glittering  uniforms  and  the  blare  of 
many  bands. 

Stand  in  the  limelight,  make  use  of  every  chan- 
nel whereby  publicity  may  be  gained  and  ipso  facto 
the  end  may  be  attained!  From  mouth  to  mouth 


350  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

spreads  this  spurious  fame ;  municipalities  recognize  it  and 
governments  decorate  for  it.  Now  those  in  the  fire-fighting 
profession,  though  discounting  the  hollow  adulation  of  the 
ignorant  and  assessing  at  its  proper  worth  an  evanescent 
popularity  which  is  of  no  permanent  value,  may  be  for- 
given if  at  moments  they  yearn  for  some  sincere  acknowl- 
edgment from  those  whose  lives  and  property  they  day 
by  day  protect.  Of  course,  it  may  be  argued  by  some  that 
they  are  paid  for  their  services,  which  is  all  they  should 
expect,  but  there  are  equally  those  who  will  query  if  their 
wages  are  equivalent  to  a  daily  risk  of  life  and  limb,  un- 
known even  to  the  professional  fighter,  the  soldier  and 
the  sailor.  As  a  matter  of  history,  probably  every  fireman 
in  every  fire  brigade  in  the  world  is  only  too  ready  and 
too  willing  to  go  to  any  extremity  in  order  to  save  a  hu- 
man life.  Surely  it  is  not  pleading  for  too  much,  if  then 
there  may  be  some  sympathetic  recognition  of  the  fact, 
without  the  aid  of  brass  bands  and  cheap  publicity. 

Of  course,  the  press  agent,  that  questionable  offshoot  of 
modern  journalism,  will  accomplish  wonders.  And  be  it 
added,  that,  though  not  blessed  too  liberally  with  this  world's 
goods,  there  are  those  who  regard  their  dignity  as  above 
such  methods  of  currying  renown.  This  is  particularly 
written  anent  fire- fighters  of  every  rank  and  nationality. 
They  do  their  work  and  if  a  grateful  community  is  too 
busy  or  too  engrossed  with  its  own  affairs  to  mind  their 
deeds,  their  sacrifices  or  their  welfare,  then  they  accept 
the  situation,  though  they  may  be  forgiven  if  at  moments 
it  does  seem  to  them  a  little  callous,  a  little  unfair  and  not 
altogether  considerate.  Reading  an  English  newspaper  the 
other  day  the  writer  came  across  a  story  of  simple  heroism, 
which  he  may  be  pardoned  for  reproducing  with  some  de- 
tail. It  is  by  no  means  an  uncommon  occurrence,  it  pos- 
sesses no  limelight  effect  and  the  surroundings  of  the  event 
by  no  possible  stretch  of  the  imagination  could  be  described 
as  exhilarating  or  of  a  nature  to  inspire  desperate  courage. 
Rather  are  all  the  facts  the  reverse  of  these,  but  the  nar- 
rative exemplifies  the  silent  heroism  which  is  no  monopoly 


CONCLUSION  351 

of  any  fire  department  in  any  country,  but  is  rather  the 
heritage  of  precedent  handed  down  from  time  immemorial 
and  which  carries  with  it  that  glorious  superscription,  "for 
a  greater  thing  can  no  man  do  than  that  he  lay  down  his 
life  for  another."  The  excerpt  is  given  practically  word 
for  word.  "That  heroism  is  by  no  means  confined  to  the 
battlefield  or  to  the  wild  corners  of  the  world's  surface 
was  exemplified  once  again  by  what  happened  in  London 
on  Tuesday,  when  the  gallantry  and  cheerful  self-sacrifice 
of  the  men  of  the  London  Fire  Brigade  was  displayed. 
Two  of  them  lost  their  lives  in  a  splendid  attempt  to  res- 
cue a  number  of  workmen  overtaken  in  a  rush  of  poisonous 
sewer  gas  under  the  road  in  Pembridge  Street,  Netting  Hill. 
The  men  were  employees  of  the  Kensington  Corporation. 
One  of  them  was  suffocated  before  he  could  be  reached 
and  four  of  his  comrades  came  within  an  ace  of  suffering 
the  same  terrible  fate.  They  were  all  struck  down  un- 
conscious before  they  could  be  hauled  out.  ...  A  dan- 
gerous and  threatening  leakage  of  gas  was  the  cause  of  the 
trouble.  This  was  reported  to  the  Kensington  authorities 
some  time  before  noon  and  five  sewer  men  were  immedi- 
ately despatched  to  locate  it.  Dressed  in  their  heavy  uni- 
form and  armed  with  safety  lamps,  they  descended  the 
man-hole  in  Pembridge  Street  to  search  for  the  source  of 
the  trouble,  leaving  as  is  customary  a  mate  on  sentry  above 
ground.  They  had  not  been  down  long  before  one  of  the 
men  reappeared  .at  the  top  of  the  man-hole  livid  and  gasp- 
ing for  breath.  He  was  only  able  to  gasp  out  that  his  mates 
were  "knocked  over"  by  the  suffocating  fumes  before  he 
collapsed  on  the  pavement.  A  message  was  immediately 
sent  to  the  fire  brigade  station  and  a  large  crowd  assem- 
bled as  the  firemen  dashed  up  from  Bayswater,  Netting 
Hill,  Kensington,  Euston  and  other  stations.  There  were 
scenes  of  great  excitement  as  the  men,  with  their  smoke 
helmets  adjusted,  disappeared  one  after  the  other  into  the 
man-hole.  Amid  rousing  cheers  three  men  were  brought 
up  livid,  gasping  and  only  just  alive.  It  was  known  that 
one  man,  Parry,  was  still  somewhere  down  there  in  that 


352  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

horrible  atmosphere  and  the  most  desperate  efforts  were 
made  to  get  to  him.  Fireman  after  fireman  went  down 
only  to  be  dragged  back  exhausted  after  a  futile  effort  to 
reach  the  entombed  victim.  They  must  have  been  pretty 
sure  that  by  this  time  he  was  dead,  but  that  made  no  dif- 
ference. Dead  or  alive,  it  was  their  duty  to  get  this  man 
out  and  they  stuck  to  their  task  with  splendid  heroism.  The 
fatal  tunnel  was  very  narrow,  at  no  part  higher  than  three 
feet  nine  inches.  Parry  was  a  man  of  considerable  bulk 
and  it  was  thought  that  he  had  become  wedged.  The 
poison  down  below  was  worse  and  far  more  penetrating 
than  the  smoke  of  an  ordinary  fire,  but  the  firemen  cheer- 
fully took  the  risk.  All  the  afternoon  the  gruesome  search 
went  on  and  at  half  past  four  the  anxious  watchers  at 
the  top  were  signalled  to  haul  up  one  of  the  firemen.  He 
was  dragged  out  nerveless  and  dreadfully  pallid,  and  though 
he  was  treated  on  the  spot  by  Dr.  Kennedy  it  was  too  late. 
Half  an  hour  later  another  was  hauled  up  the  narrow  iron 
ladder  and  laid  gently  on  a  tarpaulin.  He  was  found  to 
be  past  all  human  aid,  and  the  lookers-on  bared  their  heads 
as  the  body  was  placed  on  a  motor  engine  and  taken  to 
the  mortuary.  Traffic  was  diverted  for  many  hours,  the 
work  of  rescue  being  followed  with  breathless  interest  by  a 
silent  awe-struck  crowd."  It  might  be  well  added  that  the 
names  of  these  two  self-sacrificing  heroes  were  William 
McClaren  and  R.  Bibby.  Now  the  object  in  having  given 
these  details  in  extenso  is  to  emphasize  as  well  as  the 
ability  of  the  writer  will  allow,  the  daily  risks  of  the  fire- 
fighter, often,  as  in  this  case,  devoid  of  that  supreme  ex- 
citement which  prompts  many  a  deed  of  "derring  do"  upon 
the  battlefields.  And  for  those  who  accomplish  the  latter 
there  are  the  thanks  of  a  grateful  country,  or,  at  least,  that 
is  the  official  phraseology.  At  all  events  there  is  recognition 
of  sorts  not  the  least  mark  being  the  esteem  in  which 
those  comprising  the  fighting  forces  are  naturally  held. 

There  is  nothing  to  be  gained  by  further  following  the 
line  of  thought.  It  has  ever  been  so  and  unless  some  vast 
change  sweeps  over  nations  and  peoples,  it  will  ever  remain 


CONCLUSION  353 

so.  The  student  in  his  closet,  the  chemist  in  his  laboratory, 
the  surgeon  in  his  consulting  room  and  the  engineer  in  his 
workshop,  all  may  devise  some  great  benefit  for  humanity, 
but  if  they  expect  earthly  reward  they  most  assuredly  are 
mistaken.  They  must  look  elsewhere  for  that,  for  they 
have  no  trumpet  blowers  and  the  intelligence  of  the  in- 
dividual as  a  rule  does  not  stray  beyond  the  pages  of  his 
favorite  paper,  which  formulates  his  ideas,  prearranges  his 
opinions  and  supplies  him  with  arguments  along  almost  au- 
tomatic lines.  Hence  it  is  as  well  that  all  connected  with 
the  fire-fighting  profession  should  leave  notoriety  to  others 
to  whom  it  is  as  the  breath  of  life  and  who  find  solace  in 
well  turned  laudatory  phrases  rather  than  in  a  quiet  con- 
viction that  they  have  done  their  best.  The  student  of 
history  must  sometimes  wonder  how  men  of  the  stamp  of 
Lincoln,  Washington,  Benbow,  Burke,  Wellington,  and 
of  course  that  immortal  hero,  Nelson,  would  have 
thought  of  the  brass  brand,  press  agent,  limelight  form 
of  publicity,  which  today  is  so  often  regarded  as  the  hall 
mark  of  meritorious  service.  However,  the  mole,  if  it 
works  unseen,  accomplishes  a  deal  of  tunnelling  as  is 
eventually  ascertained,  and  the  fire  corps  of  the  world 
though  the  sphere  of  their  usefulness  may  not  be  readily 
appreciated,  can  afford  to  await  developments. 

There  is,  however,  springing  up  in  many  quarters  a  proper 
realization  of  what  fire  risks  actually  are,  and  to  that  end 
private  organizations  are  being  instituted  for  the  scientific 
and  careful  study  of  the  problems  involved.  This  in 
itself  is  a  healthy  sign,  while  annual  fire  conventions,  of 
which  one  is  to  be  held  in  New  York  this  year,  do  a  great 
deal  towards  advancing  the  interests  of  the  fire- fighter  and 
arousing  the  attention  of  the  public  in  his  career.  And, 
in  addition,  since  a  rope  is  made  of  many  strands,  these  con- 
ventions assist  towards  international  friendship  and  a  bet- 
ter comprehension  of  national  characteristics.  There  is 
a  talk  of  international  arbitration  in  the  air,  reduction 
of  armaments  and  the  submission  of  points  of  difference 
to  referees.  Hence  every  action  which  tends  towards  amity 


354  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

between  nations  is  to  be  commended,  and  what  more  natural 
than  that  the  united  enemies  of  a  common  foe,  the  allied 
forces  of  intelligent  and  scientific  action  against,  not  a 
national  but  an  universal  peril  should  meet  from  time  to 
time  to  suggest  and  adopt  the  most  comprehensive  means  of 
checking  the  same.  And  such  united  action  of  human 
fighters  against  an  elemental  antagonist  will,  it  is  devoutly 
to  be  hoped,  tend  towards  the  elimination  of  the  national 
fighter;  not  because  the  latter  is  unnecessary  to  the  life  of 
a  nation  as  at  present  constituted,  but  rather  because  peace 
is  the  greatest  of  blessings  and  will  bring  in  its  train  scien- 
tific development  along  the  most  useful  and  beneficial  of 
lines  to  the  common  weal. 

To  the  youth  of  all  nations,  the  writer  would  make  the 
following  appeal.  The  career  of  the  fire-fighter  is  one  of 
the  most  enthralling  that  the  mind  of  man  can  conceive  and 
in  its  present  stage  of  development  it  promises  a  remarkable 
field  for  the  enterprising  and  enthusiastic.  It  has  been 
shown  that  the  days  when  the  fireman  was  merely  an 
automaton  using  a  pail  of  water  and  a  hatchet,  when  dis- 
cretion and  intelligence  were  useless  owing  to  the  undevel- 
oped state  of  the  science  and  when  any  unskilled  labourer 
could  accomplish  all  that  was  required,  are  gone  forever. 
In  place  is  a  calling  which  is  emerging  from  its  chrysalis 
of  obscurity  to  take  its  proper  position  amongst  the  recog- 
nized and  esteemed  professions  of  the  world. 

While,  as  has  been  pointed  out  in  the  preceding  pages,  it 
does  not  offer  the  financial  returns  or  popular  recognition 
attached  to  other  occupations,  it  does  promise  a  sufficiency. 
If  followed  with  determination,  positions  of  responsi- 
bility are  within  reach,  and  what  the  future  holds  for  the 
"fireman"  no  one  can  foresee.  More  unlikely  things  have 
occurred  in  the  evolution  of  society  than  the  formation  of 
a  national  force  of  firemen,  paid  and  recruited  by  the  gov- 
ernment and  having  in  their  charge  the  fire  risks  of  the 
community  as  a  whole,  worthy  successors  of  the  soldier 
and  the  sailor,  if  that  time  ever  arrives  when  the  sword 
shall  be  laid  aside  for  the  ploughshare.  And  who  shall 


CONCLUSION  355 

say  that  it  will  not!    Which  brings  the  writer  to  the  end 
of  his  labours. 

The  day  is  closing  in  and  the  lights  are  beginning  to 
twinkle  across  the  harbour  of  New  York,  as  though  beckon- 
ing to  the  wanderer  to  lay  aside  the  cares  of  the  moment 
and  find  rest  and  safety  within  their  embrace.  And  some- 
how there  steals  across  the  evening  air  a  vague  feeling  of 
sadness,  the  consciousness  that  many  hands  generously  ex- 
tended in  the  past  as  tokens  of  friendship  and  guerdons 
for  courage  will  never  again  be  clasped;  that  the  enemy, 
"fire,"  has  reaped  a  rich  harvest,  and  that  in  dealing  in  pen 
and  ink  with  the  antagonist  of  a  lifetime,  in  the  words  of 
that  great  empire  builder,  Cecil  Rhodes,  there  has  been 
"so  much  to  do,  so  little  done."  But  none  the  less,  from 
the  writer's  eyrie  overlooking  the  restless  Hudson,  bearing 
upon  its  broad  bosom  the  commerce  of  the  seven  seas,  he 
holds  out  his  hand  in  greeting  to  the  new  recruit,  in  friend- 
ship to  the  active  rank  and  file  and  in  congratulation  to  the 
veteran  fire-fighters  the  world  over;  in  all  climes,  in  all 
cities,  in  all  countries,  the  greatest  brotherhood  of  the  world 
for  the  common  weal. 


(APPENDIX) 

PRACTICAL   TESTS    FOR   FIRE   ENGINES 

IT  is  the  purpose  of  this  appendix  to  set  forth  convenient 
and  practical  methods  of  making  fire  engine  tests  which 
will  show  the  physical  condition  of  engines,  their  capacity 
for  delivering  water  at  a  reasonable  pressure  and  the  ability 
of  the  operating  crews.  The  method  described  has  been  in 
use  for  a  number  of  years  and  has  been  found  practical, 
exact  and  of  great  value.  Although  methods  similar  to  that 
described  below  are  in  use  in  some  departments,  the  char- 
acter of  tests  made  in  many  cities,  and  especially  those  for 
acceptance,  are  usually  more  spectacular  than  exact.  The 
throwing  of  a  stream  over  a  church  spire,  city  hall  or  court 
house  does  not  necessarily  show  that  the  engine  is  capable 
of  delivering  its  full  rated  capacity  at  a  proper  working 
pressure. 

Investigation  has  shown  that  where  regular  and  sys- 
tematic tests  of  engines  are  not  made,  even  in  well  man- 
aged fire  departments,  defects  often  exist  which  may  con- 
tinue unsuspected  for  considerable  periods  and  become 
manifest  under  the  stress  of  a  large  fire,  where  the  engine 
is  called  upon  to  deliver  its  full  capacity  under  suitable 
working  pressures.  Furthermore,  regular  tests  are  a  most 
valuable  drill  for  engine  crews,  for  in  only  a  few  depart- 
ments do  they  receive  sufficient  training  in  operating  en- 
gines to  capacity.  The  breakdown  of  an  engine  at  a  fire  or 
the  inability  of  the  crew  to  operate  it  to  capacity  may  be  the 
direct  cause  of  confusion  and  needless  loss  of  property 
and  perhaps  of  life,  to  the  discredit  of  the  department. 

Contracts  for  new  fire  engines  usually  contain  guaran- 
tees that  the  engine  will  deliver  a  certain  quantity  of  water, 

357 


358  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

but  often  do  not  specify  the  pressure  at  which  it  is  to  be 
delivered,  nor  provide  for  any  definite  tests  which  will 
accurately  determine  whether  the  engine  has  fulfilled  the 
guarantee;  or,  in  other  words,  if  the  department  is  getting 
what  it  is  paying  for.  In  several  cities,  engines  are  re- 
quired to  fill  large  measured  tanks  in  a  specified  time,  but 
this  is  a  cumbersome  method  at  best,  and  such  tanks  are 
frequently  unavailable ;  this  usually  gives  no  definite  results 
as  to  pressure  obtained  and  power  developed. 

STEAM  FIRE  ENGINE 

A  PRACTICAL  test  should  show,  with  fair  accuracy,  the 
condition  of  both  water  and  steam  ends  of  pumps  and  the 
condition  of  the  boiler;  determine  the  amount  of  water 
which  the  engine  will  pump  at  a  reasonable  working  pres- 
sure, such  as  would  be  required  when  operating  at  a  large 
fire;  demonstrate  the  ability  of  the  engine  to  draft  water, 
whether  the  pumps  and  waterways  are  tight  under  high 
pressures  and  steam  valves  are  properly  set,  and  whether  the 
coal  used  is  quick  steaming  and  free  from  objectionable  im- 
purities. In  addition,  the  test  should  be  of  such  a  character 
as  to  approach  the  working  condition  at  a  serious  fire  where 
the  full  capacity  of  the  engine  would  be  required,  and  at  the 
same  time  be  easily  understood.  The  following  tests  are 
intended  to  bring  out  all  of  these  points. 

The  displacement  test  indicates  very  closely  the  actual 
condition  of  the  pumps  as  a  whole  and,  in  conjunction  with 
the  high  pressure  and  valve  tests,  the  condition  of  the 
plungers,  pump  valves,  packing,  etc.  The  high  pressure 
test,  in  connection  with  the  results  obtained  from  the  ca- 
pacity test,  indicates  the  setting  of  steam  valves  and  con- 
dition of  steam  cylinders  and  packed  joints.  The  capacity 
test  shows  the  steaming  quality  of  the  boiler  under  heavy 
draft  and  the  ability  of  the  engine  to  make  sufficient  speed 
to  develop  its  capacity  when  working  against  a  reasonable 
water  pressure.  If  the  test  is  made  from  a  cistern  or  reser- 
voir, it  will  show  the  ability  of  the  engine  to  draft;  if  made 
from  a  hydrant,  the  percentage  of  slip  obtained  will  indi- 


APPENDIX  359 

cate  this  feature,  as  an  engine  showing  less  than  5  per  cent, 
slip  may  be  depended  upon  to  take  suction  satisfactorily. 
Incidentally,  the  test  also  shows  the  ability  of  the  engine 
crew  in  operating  and  stoking  the  engine. 

Any  machine,  when  new,  should  be  capable  of  greater 
work  than  after  several  years  of  service;  for  this  reason,  a 
new  engine  should  be  given  an  acceptance  test  at  least  as 
severe  as  any  work  it  may  have  to  perform  in  actual  service. 
This  test  should  bring  out  not  only  the  capacity  to  pump 
the  actual  volume  of  water  specified  by  the  maker  as  the 
rated  capacity,  but  also  to  do  this  at  a  good  working  pres- 
sure. 

A  good  specification,  applying  equally  well  to  steam  fire 
engines  and  automobile  fire  engines,  is  that  the  engine 
should  deliver  its  full  rated  capacity  at  120  pounds  net 
pressure  and  50  per  cent,  of  its  rated  capacity  at  200  pounds 
net  pressure.  This  will  assure  sufficient  boiler  capacity  in 
steam  fire  engines  and  gasoline  engines  of  high  enough 
power  in  the  automobile  fire  engine. 

Engines  in  service  need  not  be  given  as  severe  a  test  as 
those  being  accepted,  as  it  is  mainly  their  general  condition 
that  is  to  be  ascertained;  for  this  reason,  100  pounds  net 
water  pressure  would  seem  a  sufficiently  high  requirement 
for  the  ordinary  capacity  test,  which  should  be  made  at 
least  yearly. 

Apparatus  Necessary  for  Testing. — For  the  tests  out- 
lined below,  no  elaborate  or  costly  outfit  is  needed,  the  only 
special  appliances  absolutely  required  being  as  shown  on 
Plate  I  and  listed  below: 

A  revolution  counter.     (Figure  3.) 
A  stop-watch  and  wrist  strap.     (Figure  5.) 
A  small  Pitot  tube.     (Figure  9.) 
An  air  chamber  on  Pitot.     (Figure  n.) 
Two  or  more  pressure  gages.     (Figures  I  and  10.) 
A  set  of  smooth  bore  nozzles.     (Figure  4.) 
A  hydrant  or  engine-discharge  cap.     (Figure  2.) 
Appliance  for  attaching  counter.     (Figures  6  and  7  or 
Figure  8.) 


36o  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

The  revolution  counter  should  be  of  a  type  easily  at- 
tached to  the  engine  frame,  or  any  convenient  part,  and 
so  made  as  to  register  accurately  at  any  speed  likely  to  be 
reached  by  a  reciprocating  engine  and  be  easily  read. 

The  counter  may  be  provided  with  straps  for  attaching 
to  engine,  or  with  the  clamp  and  angle  iron  shown  on 
Plate  I,  Figures  6  and  7,  or  with  bolts  and  slotted  lugs  as 
shown  in  Plate  I,  Figure  8. 

Tachometers  and  speed  indicators  are  unsuitable  for  fire 
engine  work,  as  the  vibration  is  apt  to  render  their  read- 
ings unreliable. 

A  stop-watch  can  be  purchased  for  less  than  $10,  al- 
though an  ordinary  watch  can  be  used. 

The  Pitot  tube  may  be  any  of  several  suitable  types  now 
on  the  market,  or  the  type  shown  on  Plate  I  may  be  readily 
constructed.  Dimensions  are  given  below.  It  should  be 
connected  by  %-inch  brass  pipe  fittings  to  a  pressure  gage; 
to  prevent  vibration  of  the  needle,  an  air  chamber  should 
be  provided  as  shown  on  Plate  I. 

The  pressure  gages  should  be  preferably  not  more  than 
3*/2  inches  in  diameter,  in  order  that  they  may  be  con- 
veniently handled.  They  should  be  of  the  compound  type, 
in  order  that  any  disarrangement  of  the  needle  may  be 
readily  observed,  one  capable  of  indicating  from  a  vacuum 
up  to  150  pounds  and  one  up  to  200  pounds,  and  preferably 
divided  for  every  pound  and  marked  every  5  or  10  pounds, 
as  shown  in  Figures  i  and  10,  Plate  I.  Gages,  especially 
those  used  with  the  Pitot,  should  be  of  good  quality  and 
accurate.  They  should  be  carefully  calibrated  (tested) 
with  a  weight  tester  or  a  standard  gage  before  each  day's 
work. 

Nozzles  suitable  for  testing  are  usually  found  in  the 
regular  equipment  of  every  fire  department.  Only  smooth 
bore  tapered  nozzles  should  be  used,  as  discharges  from 
ring  nozzles  are  uncertain.  Care  should  be  taken  that  the 
tips  are  not  nicked  or  otherwise  injured,  and  that  washers 
do  not  project  into  the  pipe,  as  a  perfectly  smooth  water- 
way is  essential.  The  ring  nozzles  on  many  engines  have 


APPENDIX  361 

loose  rings,  which  may  be  slipped  out  by  unscrewing  the 
end  cap,  leaving  a  suitable  smooth-bore  tip.  Shut-off  noz- 
zles should  not  be  used,  as  these  generally  have  interior 
projections  or  breaks  in  the  waterway,  likely  to  cause  eddies 
in  the  stream.  Where  much  testing  is  to  be  done,  it  is 
better  to  set  aside  nozzles,  keeping  them  solely  for  that 
purpose.  The  bore  of  nozzles  should  be  accurate  to  size 
within  1/1,000  of  an  inch  and  carefully  measured. 

The  engine-discharge  cap,  or  hydrant  cap  (in  most  cities 
these  have  the  same  thread)  is  tapped  for  ^-inch  pipe 
thread  and  fitted  with  a  nipple  and  stop-cock  for  attaching 
the  test  gage.  By  attaching  to  the  discharge  outlet  of  the 
engine,  the  engine  water  gage  and  the  test  gage  may  be 
compared  to  determine  if  the  engine  gage  is  correct. 
Where  there  is  time  to  detach  the  water  gage  and  a  testing 
set  is  available,  the  gage  can  be  more  accurately  checked. 
The  steam  gages  are  less  likely  to  get  out  of  order,  being 
less  subject  to  sudden  fluctuations,  and  a  comparison  of 
readings  of  side  and  rear  steam  gages  will  usually  be  suf- 
ficient. If  the  engine  has  no  suction  gage  or  tapped  suction 
cap,  the  engine  or  hydrant  cap  should  be  used  on  the  second 
outlet  of  the  hydrant  when  testing  an  engine  at  a  double 
outlet  hydrant. 

Tests  are  best  made  by  a  supervisor  (as  the  master 
mechanic  or  other  officer  conducting  the  test  will  hereafter 
be  called),  with  an  assistant  accustomed  to  reading  gages. 
Tables  showing  the  discharge  at  various  pressures  through 
different  nozzles,  for  use  with  Pitot  tube  readings,  are  to  be 
found  on  pages  382  and  383.  The  suitable  form  for  re- 
cording data  of  tests  is  shown  on  page  372,  and  until  the 
supervisor  becomes  familiar  with  tests,  it  is  advisable  to 
use  a  similar  form  at  the  tests  in  order  not  to  overlook  any 
necessary  data.  Later,  a  pocket  note-book  will  doubtless 
be  found  more  convenient,  care  being  taken  to  record  all 
the  necessary  data. 

Preliminary  to  Test. — If  possible,  calibrate  gages  of  en- 
gine before  the  test,  by  detaching  and  comparing  on  a 
portable  gage-testing  set.  They  should  be  calibrated  in  the 


362  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

position  in  which  they  are  to  be  used,  either  horizontally 
or  vertically.  If  this  is  not  done,  check  water  and  suction 
gages  at  test,  as  explained  below. 

If  it  is  desired  to  determine  the  ability  of  the  regular 
engine  crew,  the  engine  should,  of  course,  be  operated  by 
them;  if  the  condition  and  capacity  of  the  engine  are  the 
unknown  factors,  a  crew  known  to  be  efficient  should  be 
selected. 

If  there  is  any  convenient  body  of  water,  or  cistern, 
where  water  may  be  drafted  with  not  over  10  feet  of  lift, 
then  test  should  be  made  at  draft ;  otherwise,  attach  engine 
to  hydrant,  care  being  taken  to  get  a  hydrant  attached  to  a 
large  main  (8-inch  or  larger),  and  that  the  hydrant  pres- 
sure is  not  excessive,  preferably  below  40  pounds.  Four- 
inch  or  larger  suction  should  be  used.  After  suitably  sta- 
tioning engine,  light  the  fire;  note  the  time  when  smoke 
comes  from  stack,  when  the  steam  gage  needle  moves,  at  50 
pounds  of  steam,  at  100  pounds,  and  pressure  and  time  of 
blowing  off.  If  engine  has  hot  water  in  boiler,  this  may 
be  omitted,  noting  only  the  pressure  at  which  safety  valve 
blows  off.  Then,  if  water  gage  on  engine  has  not  been 
calibrated  (checked),  attach  hydrant  cap  and  2OO-pound 
test  gage  to  engine  discharge  outlet.  Record  zero  of  all 
three  gages — water,  suction  and  test  gages;  open  hydrant 
and  record  static  pressure  on  all  three  gages;  then  with 
churn  (hand  relief)  valve  partly  open  and  discharge  gates 
shut,  pump  up  pressure  and  compare  test  and  water  gages 
at  80  pounds,  100,  no,  120,  etc.,  up  to  120  pounds  over  the 
static  or  hydrant  pressure.  If  engine  has  no  suction  gage, 
one  of  the  suction  caps  on  the  engine  can  be  tapped  to  con- 
nect the  gage,  or  the  engine  or  hydrant  cap  provided  with 
the  second  gage  should  be  attached  to  one  hydrant  outlet. 

Let  supervisor  and  assistant  compare  watches  and  set 
second  hands  together,  or  nearly  so;  this  is  more  quickly 
accomplished  if  one  watch  has  a  stop-hand.  The  super- 
visor will  find  it  convenient  to  tie  his  watch  to  coat  or  wrist 
in  order  to  leave  his  hands  free  to  hold  note-book  or  Pitot. 
A  leather  watch  holder  and  wrist  strap,  as  shown  on  Plate 


APPENDIX  363 

I,  such  as  any  harness  maker  can  make,  is  a  convenient 
appliance  for  this  purpose.  Attach  the  revolution  counter 
and  connect  with  one  of  the  eccentric  strap  oil  cups  or  studs 
by  a  short  length  of  cord;  have  engine  started  slowly  and 
adjust  counter  cord  so  that  each  revolution  registers. 

Displacement  and  Capacity  Test. — While  the  engine  is 
getting  up  steam,  have  firemen  lay  hose  and  connect  nozzle. 
If  testing  on  a  paved  street,  it  is  best  to  lay  nozzle  down  in 
gutter.  Use  a  play-pipe  holder  or  tie  nozzle  to  any  con- 
venient post,  in  order  to  prevent  pipe  getting  away  from 
pipeman  and  doing  damage. 

For  the  larger  engines,  attach  a  line  of  hose  on  each  side 
of  the  engine  and  connect  into  the  Siamese  of  a  deluge  set. 

With  the  smaller  size  engines,  it  is  usually  more  con- 
venient to  use  a  single  line  from  one  side  of  the  engine; 
when  deluge  sets  are  not  available,  single  lines  may  be 
used  on  the  larger  engines.  In  the  table  on  page  379,  the 
length  of  hose  and  size  of  nozzle  best  adapted  for  test- 
ing engines  of  various  sizes  are  given.  In  testing  with  the 
siamesed  lines,  start  the  engines  with  both  lines  open  and 
bring  it  up  to  speed;  if  the  desired  water  pressure  is  not 
obtained,  close  the  discharge  gate  on  one  line  slowly  until 
the  gate  indicates  the  proper  pressure.  Similarly,  with  a 
single  line  attached,  the  gate  is  closed  slowly  after  engine 
has  obtained  its  full  speed  until  the  desired  pressure  is  ob- 
tained. 

The  supervisor  can,  from  time  to  time,  regulate  this 
discharge  gate  to  keep  the  desired  water  pressure,  although 
if  the  crew  operates  the  engine  properly  but  little  change 
will  have  to  be  made  throughout  the  test.  The  engineer 
can  be  instructed  to  direct  all  his  attention  to  operating  his 
engine  to  full  capacity,  and  the  supervisor  or  testing  en- 
gineer can  regulate  the  water  pressure,  take  the  readings 
of  the  revolution  counter,  steam,  water  and  suction  gages, 
while  his  assistant  takes  readings  of  the  nozzle  pressure 
throughout  the  test. 

When  siamesed  lines  are  used,  should  the  engine  not  be 
able  to  maintain  the  desired  water  pressure  with  one  line 


364  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

shut  off  entirely,  add  another  length  of  hose  to  each  side,  or 
use  a  nozzle  %-inch  smaller.  With  single  lines,  when  the 
engine  cannot  maintain  the  desired  pressure  without  undue 
throttling  of  the  discharge  valve,  use  a  smaller  nozzle  or 
add  another  length  of  hose.  The  nozzle  readings  should,  if 
possible,  be  over  40  pounds,  as  below  this  point  readings 
must  be  very  nearly  constant  to  give  accurate  results. 

Should  water  pressure  at  the  engine  be  too  high  with 
both  lines  wide  open,  use  a  larger  nozzle  or  cut  out  a 
length  of  hose  from  each  side. 

Relief  valves  should  be  closed,  sprinkler  used  only  as 
needed,  and  feed  pumps  operated  regularly.  The  capacity 
test  should  last  at  least  20  minutes  from  the  time  the 
engine  reaches  full  speed.  During  this  time  the  water  pres- 
sure at  the  engine  should  be  constant  and  such  as  to  give 
a  net  water  pressure  over  the  suction  pressure  of  100  to 
1 20  pounds.  Unless  the  rubber  tires  cause  undue  vibration, 
a  modern  engine,  if  in  good  condition,  can  safely  run  for 
an  indefinite  period  at  400  to  425  feet  of  piston  travel  per 
minute,  that  is,  300  to  320  revolutions  for  an  8-inch  stroke. 

It  is  usually  better  to  hold  about  10  pounds  over  the  pres- 
sure actually  required,  when  the  water  pressure  fluctuates 
much,  as  most  engineers  read  the  top  of  swing  of  a  gage 
needle,  while  the  supervisor,  of  course,  should  read  the 
middle  of  the  vibration.  Gages  may  be  throttled  to  prevent 
excessive  vibration,  but  should  always  show  some  vibration 
to  get  true  readings.  A  better  method  of  preventing  exces- 
sive vibration  of  needle  on  gage  is  to  attach  a  small  air 
chamber  to  the  connection  near  the  gage.  During  the 
capacity  test,  the  supervisor  should  read  counter  (exactly 
at  minute)  and  steam,  water  and  suction  gages  each  minute 
in  regular  order,  and  note  the  handling  and  stoking,  feed 
water,  leaks,  uneven  steam  pressure,  blowing  off,  foaming 
of  boiler,  accidents,  and  the  other  little  details  which  his  ex- 
perience teaches  him  to  observe.  Meanwhile  the  super- 
visor's assistant  should  read  the  nozzle  pressure  every  y± 
minute.  Special  care  should  be  taken  in  reading  the  nozzle 
pressure.  The  Pitot  should  be  held  in  the  middle  of  the 


APPENDIX  365 

stream,  with  the  tip  about  one-half  the  diameter  of  the 
bore  from  the  end  of  the  nozzle.  Gage  should  be  horizontal 
or  vertical,  according  to  the  position  in  which  it  was  cali- 
brated, and  at  the  same  level  as  the  end  of  the  nozzle. 

High  Pressure  Test. — After  a  run  of  20  minutes  in  which 
there  were  no  serious  interruptions  to  readings,  and  pres- 
sure was  maintained  at  an  average  of  at  least  100  pounds 
net,  stop  stoking;  shut  down,  close  discharge  gates,  partly 
open  churn  valve  and  get  steam  down  to  between  70  and 
80  pounds,  drawing  fire  if  necessary.  Then  start  engine 
slowly,  and  gradually  close  churn  valve  tight.  See  that  all 
other  openings,  feed  pumps,  sprinklers,  relief  cocks,  etc., 
are  shut.  Let  engine  turn  in  this  condition  for  one  or  two 
minutes ;  observe  the  number  of  revolutions,  and  the  water, 
steam  and  suction  (now  static)  pressures;  note  any  uneven 
motion  of  engine,  blowing  through  of  steam  or  imperfect 
valve  setting,  leaks  in  steam  or  water  ends,  or  fittings,  etc. 
If  pumps  are  in  good  condition  and  valves  set  correctly, 
speed  should  not  be  over  one  revolution  in  10  seconds  in 
any  modern  type  engine.  With  70  pounds  steam  and  50 
pounds  suction,  water  pressure  will  reach  about  250 
pounds ;  this  is  perfectly  safe  and  not  a  severe  test,  as  such 
pressures  are  frequently  met  in  operation  when  long  lines 
are  used. 

Valve  Tests. — After  taking  the  observations  for  the  high 
pressure  test,  shut  off  throttle  of  engine  and  open  cylinder 
drips.  Note  the  drop  in  water  pressure  for  say  one-half 
minute.  The  manner  in  which  this  pressure  holds  up  is  an 
indication  of  the  condition  of  the  discharge  valves.  A  drop 
of  not  over  15  pounds  in  one-half  minute,  provided  there 
are  no  external  leaks  visible  around  the  pump,  indicates  a 
fairly  good  condition  of  the  valves. 

Suction  Test. — If  the  engine  has  been  tested  at  a  hydrant, 
its  ability  to  draft  may  be  determined  as  follows,  provided 
it  is  equipped  with  a  compound  suction  gage  or  one  of  the 
suction  caps  is  tapped  to  receive  a  compound  gage:  Dis- 
connect engine  from  hydrant  while  there  is  still  some  steam 
pressure  on  boiler,  put  both  suction  caps  on  tight,  open  one 


366  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

of  the  discharge  gates  and  then  open  throttle,  allowing  en- 
gine to  run  at  a  moderate  speed,  observe  the  reading  of  the 
compound  gage  while  running,  and  also  after  shutting 
down.  The  drop  of  the  vacuum  after  shutting  down  is  an 
indication  of  the  condition  of  the  suction  valves,  provided 
all  joints  are  good. 

To  Figure  Displacement. — In  averaging  the  nozzle, 
steam,  water  and  suction  pressures,  subtract  y^  of  first  and 
last  readings  from  sum  of  readings  used  (see  sample 
test  sheet).  Average  the  nozzle  pressure  during  a  period 
in  which  the  engine  ran  steadily,  water  pressure  was 
well  maintained  and  the  nozzle  pressure  varied  the  least. 
When  possible,  use  a  2O-minute  period  in  figuring  the  dis- 
placement; if  for  any  reason  there  is  much  variation  in  the 
nozzle  pressure,  say  over  10  per  cent,  during  any  one  min- 
ute, select  as  long  a  period  as  possible,  but  at  least  10 
minutes,  during  which  the  pressure  has  been  well  main- 
tained. Correct  for  gage  error.  Take  out  corresponding 
gallons  from  table,  interpolating  for  odd  pressures  or  for 
odd-size  nozzles. 
Example:  iy2"  nozzle,  61  pounds  nozzle  pressure. 

62  pounds  nozzle  pressure  gives. . 525  gallons 

60  pounds  nozzle  pressure  gives 517  gallons 

or  2  pounds  give  a  difference  of . ., 8  gallons 

and  i  pound  gives  y2  of  this,  or 4  gallons 

Therefore,  61  pounds  nozzle  pressure. .  .  .—517+4 

=521  gallons 

Example:     i  9/16"  nozzle,  60  pounds  nozzle  pressure. 
60  pounds  through  i^"  nozzle  gives....     607  gallons 
60  pounds  through  ij^"  nozzle  gives. .,. .      517  gallons 

or  Y%"  difference  in  nozzle  diameter  gives . .  90  gallons 
and  1/16"  difference  in  nozzle  dia'r  gives  45  gallons 
Therefore,  i  9/16"  nozzle  at  60  pounds  gives  517+45 

=562  gallons 

For  odd-size  nozzles,  the  discharge  can  be  accurately  ob- 
tained by  using  the  formula  under  table  of  nozzle  factors. 


APPENDIX  367 

Divide  the  average  gallons  discharged  by  the  average 
revolutions  per  minute  to  obtain  the  actual  net  displacement 
of  the  pumps.  The  nominal  displacement  will  be  found 
from  the  table,  page  366,  allowing  for  the  pump  rods.  The 
dimension  of  the  pumps,  such  as  stroke,  diameter  of  pump 
barrel  and  pump  rods,  should  be  accurately  measured,  if  in 
question.  The  difference  between  actual  and  nominal  dis- 
placements is  the  slip,  which  should  be  from  3  to  5  per 
cent,  of  the  nominal  displacement  in  a  new  engine  (6  per 
cent,  in  a  rotary)  ;  of  this,  about  Y^  per  cent,  is  due  to  the 
feed  water.  After  engine  has  been  in  use  a  few  months, 
slip  will  generally  increase  about  i  per  cent. ;  thereafter,  if 
valves  and  packings  are  given  proper  attention,  there 
should  be  only  a  slight  increase.  A  slip  of  10  per  cent,  or 
over  indicates  broken  or  displaced  valve  springs,  and  more 
than  this,  a  badly  worn  plunger  or  pump  barrel,  or  pos- 
sibly a  leaky  suction.  In  a  rotary,  the  wear  is  principally 
in  the  pump  cam  slides,  which  will  also  stick  at  times,  caus- 
ing increased  slip  even  if  not  worn. 

To  Figure  Capacity. — When  the  engine  is  run  for  20 
minutes  at  a  uniform  speed  during  the  displacement  test, 
the  average  discharge  measured  at  the  nozzle  by  the  Pitot 
is  the  capacity  of  the  engine.  If  only  a  lominute  period 
of  the  run  is  used  for  figuring  the  displacement,  the  capac- 
ity of  the  engine  is  determined  by  multiplying  the  actual 
displacement  (found  in  the  displacement  test)  by  the  aver- 
age revolutions  per  minute  during  a  2O-minute  period  in 
which  the  engine  worked  at  its  full  capacity.  Steam,  water 
and  suction  pressures  during  the  capacity  run  should  be 
averaged  and  corrected  for  gage  error.  In  figuring  per- 
centage of  capacity  delivered,  for  a  new  fire  engine,  it  is 
well  to  use  contract  figures  for  the  rated  capacity  which  the 
engine  is  guaranteed  to  deliver.  A  capacity  due  to  a  piston 
travel  of  about  420  feet  per  minute  (315  revolutions  for 
8-inch  stroke)  less  a  3  per  cent,  allowance  for  slip,  is  rea- 
sonable for  a  modern  engine ;  older  types  vary  considerably. 


368  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 


AUTOMOBILE  AND  GASOLINE  DRIVEN  FIRE  ENGINES 

IN  so  far  as  they  apply,  the  same  tests  are  desirable  for 
automobile  and  other  gasoline  motor  pumping  engines  as 
for  steam  fire  engines,  so  that  the  same  methods  for  meas- 
uring the  water  discharged,  calibrating  (testing)  water 
gages,  calculating  the  actual  and  normal  displacement  and 
slip  of  the  pumps  and  averaging  the  net  water  pressure 
may  be  used.  High  pressure,  valve  and  suction  tests  may 
also  be  made  in  much  the  same  way  as  on  steam  fire  en- 
gines. 

Owing  to  the  characteristics  of  the  internal  combustion 
engine  certain  additional  tests  and  modifications  will  be 
found  advantageous.  A  capacity  test  should  be  run  longer 
than  is  usually  necessary  with  a  steam  engine.  It  is  sug- 
gested that  for  acceptance,  engines  of  this  type  be  required 
to  deliver  their  full  rated  capacity  at  120  pounds  average 
net  pressure  for  2  hours,  and  50  per  cent,  of  their  rated 
capacity  at  200  pounds  net  pressure  for  I  hour. 

Additional  tests  with  a  line  or  lines  at  least  300  feet  in 
length  with  shut-off  nozzles  are  desirable  and  should  pref- 
erably be  made  with  engine  drafting.  While  the  streams 
are  playing  with  120  pound  pressure  at  the  engine,  first  one 
nozzle  and  then  both  should  be  shut  off  and  the  same  tried 
with  other  pressures  up  to  200  pounds.  In  these  tests  the 
relief  valve  should  be  set  at  about  10  pounds  higher  than 
the  pressure  to  be  carried. 

The  pumps  should  be  stopped  and  started  with  lines  open, 
with  one  open  and  one  closed,  and  with  both  closed;  the 
motor  should  not  stall  during  such  tests.  Tests  should  also 
be  made  to  show  that  the  engines  can  pump  their  full  guar- 
anteed capacity  at  120  pounds  net  pressure  when  drafting 
with  up  to  10  feet  of  lift,  if  there  is  a  possibility  that  the 
engine  may  be  required  to  take  suction  from  a  river,  canal 
or  cistern  when  in  service. 


APPENDIX 


369 


LOG  OF    FIRE   ENGINE    TEST 


6AGE_ 

CCMPAJWOH 


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DIMENSIONS:   Culm 

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DISPLACEMENT  TEST 


CAPACITY   TEST 


HIGH     PRESSURE    TEST 


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370  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 


A.  L.  A.  M.  FORMULA  FOR  HORSE-POWER   OF   GASOLINE 

MOTORS. 

^  Bore  X  Bore  X  No.  of  Cylinders 

Horse-Power  =  -  -  - 

Example.  —  Six-cylinder  motor  4j^-inch  bore. 


REASONABLE  CAPACITIES  OF  MODERN  FIRE  ENGINES 


Bore  of  Pumps, 
Inches 

Stroke,  Inches 

Capacity, 
Gallons  per  Minute 

6 

5M 

5 
4 

9 
8  or  9 
8 
8  or  9 
8 
8 
7  or  8 
7  or  8 
7 

1,100 
1,000 

900 
850 

750 
700 
600 

550 
500 

RATED  CAPACITY  OF  SILSBY  ENGINES 


Maker's 
Size 

Nominal  Displacement 
per  Revolution, 
Gallons 

Rated  Capacity, 
Gallons  per  Min. 

Extra  First 
First 
Second 
Third 
Fourth 
Fifth 

i.  261 
1.141 
0.952 
0.804 
0.675 
0-513 

1,000 

900 
700 
600 
500 
400 

APPENDIX 


CALCULATIONS    FOR    ENGINE    TESTS. 


DISPLACEMENT  TEST. 

AVERAGE  DISCHARGE. 
To  obtain  Average  Nozzle  Pressure: 

Sum  Column  "  Min." 

Subtract  H  sum  of  first  and  last 
figures 


Sum  Column  " ; 
Sum  Column  "; 
Sum  Column  '"• 


Divide  by  80 )    7,173 

Average  Nozzle  Reading 89.7 

Correction      from      Gage      Test 

Sheet +2.0 

Average  Nozzle  Pressure...     91 -7 
From  Discharge  Tables  for  l%"  Nozzle*: 

92  Ibs.  gives 751  gallons. 

90  Ibs.  gives 743  gallons. 

2  Ibs.  gives 8  gallons. 

1.7  Ibs.  gives 6. 8  gallons. 

Then  91.7  Ibs.  =  749  •  8  gallons. 

AVERAGE  R.  P.  M. 

Counter  at  3  •  59 4,358 

Counter  at  3 .39 7.870 

Divide  by  20 )   6,488 

Average  R.  P.  M.  =  324.4 
ACTUAL  DISPLACEMENT. 
Average  Discharge  _  749.8 
Average  R.  P.  M.   " 


2.311 


324-4 

NOMINAL  DISPLACEMENT. 
From  Engine  Displacement  Table: 

4%"  Bore,  8"  Stroke 2 .455 

i  W'  Pump  Rod 085 

Nominal  Displacement  —  2.370 
SLIP,' IN  PER  CENT. 

Nom.  Displacement  —  Act.  Displacement 
Nominal  Displacement 


CAPACITY  TEST. 
AVERAGE  R.  P.  M. 
Same   as  for   Displacement   Test  in  this 


GALLONS  PER  MINUTE. 
Same  as  for  Displacement  Test  in  this 
case. 

AVERAGES  OF  PRESSURES. 
Steam: 

Sum  of  Column 2,787 

H  of  first  and  last  figures 133 

Divide  by  20 )    2,654 

Average  Steam  Reading....   132.7 
Water: 

Sum  of  Column 3,065 

H  of  first  and  last  figures ....         142 . 5 

Divided  by  20 )    2.922.5 

Average  Reading 146 . 1 

Correction  from  Test  of  Gage 
and    Test  .Sheet,    for    Gage 

No.  119 — i.o 

Average  Water  Pressure . .        145 .  x 
Suction: 

Sum  of  Column 746 

M  of  first  and  last  figures 35 

Divide  by  20 )  711 


2.37Q  —  2.311 
a.  370 


3%. 


Average  Reading 35 .6 

Correction  from  Test  of  Gage  +i  .o 

Average  Suction  Pressure. . .  36.6 
Net  Pressure: 

Average  water  pressure 145 .  x 

Average  suction  pressure 36 . 6 

Average  net  pressure 108.5 

PERCENTAGE  OF  CAPACITY  OBTAINED. 
Reasonable  capacity  of  Pumps 
based  on  400  ft.  Piston  Travel 

per  Min.  . =700  gals. 

Obtained  at  Test 750  gall. 

or  107%  of  Rating. 


37* 


FIRES  AND.  FIRE-FIGHTERS 


ENGINE   DISPLACEMENT  TABLE 


DOUBLE   PUMPS. 


PLUNGER  DISPLACEMENT. 
GALLONS  PER  REVOLUTION. 


PUMP  ROD  CORRECTION. 
GALLONS  PER  REVOLUTION. 


Bore 
of  Pump 
Inches 

Stroke  in  Inches 
789 

Diameter 
of 
Pump   Rods 

Stroke  in  Inches 
789 

3  1/2 

.166 

1.333 

.500 

i" 

0.047       0.054      0.061 

3  5/8 

•  251 

1.430 

.609 

i  1/16 

0.053       0.061       0.069 

3  3/4 
3  7/8 

•  339 
•  430 

1-530 
1.634 

.721 
.838 

1/8 

3/i6 

0.060       0.069       0.078 
0.067       0.077       0.087 

4 

.523 

1.740 

.958 

1/4 

0.074       0.085       0.096 

4  1/8 

.620 

1.851 

.082 

5/i6 

0.081       0.093       0.105 

-719 

1.965 

.211 

3/8 

0.089         0.102         O.II5 

4  3/8 

.822 

2.083 

2.343 

7/i6 

O.098         O.I  12         O.I26 

4  1/2 

1.928 

2.203 

2.478 

1/2 

O.I07         O.I22         O.I38 

4  5/8 

2.036 

2.327 

2.618 

0/16 

O.II6         0.133         0.150 

4  3/4 

2.148 

2-455 

2.762 

5/8 

O.I26         O.I43         O.I62 

47/8 

2.263 

2.586 

3.909 

11/16 

0.136         0.155         0.174 

5 

2.380 

3.720 

3.060 

I  3/4 

0.146         O.l67         O.I88 

5  1/8 

2.500 

2.858 

3-215 

5  1/4 

2.624 

2.999 

3-374 

5  3/8 

3.750 

3-143 

3.536 

Subtract    pump     rod     correction    from 

5  f£ 
5  5/8 

5  3/4 

3.880 
3.012 
3-147 

3.291 
3-442 
3-597 

3.702 
3.872 
4-047 

plunger    displacement    to    obtain    correct 
displacement  of  engine. 
For  single-pump    engines,   use  one-half 
of  result  obtained. 

57/8 

3.286 

3-755 

4-225 

For  single-acting  pumps  do  not  subtract 

pump  rod  connection. 

6 

3.427 

3.917 

4.407 

Example:     Engine  with  sJi-inch  pump,  9-inch  stroke  and  ij^-inch  pump  rod. 
From  Table  above: 

Displacement  of  Plunger  =3.374  gallons. 

Correction  for  Rod  =o.  138  gallons. 

Nominal  Displacement  =3.236  gallons. 


APPENDIX 


373 


Below  is  given  a  table  for  use  when  engines  are  worked 
at  draft,  either  in  actual  service  or  in  testing.  A  study  of 
it  will  show  that  where  a  high  lift  is  necessary,  small  suc- 
tions will  restrict  the  capacity  of  an  engine;  the  table  indi- 
cates clearly  what  sizes  are  necessary  under  different  condi- 
tions. The  figures  are  based  on  the  ability  of  the  pumps 
to  maintain  a  vacuum  of  23  inches. 


TABLE  SHOWING  MAXIMUM  LIFT  IN  FEET  WHEN 
DRAFTING  VARIOUS  QUANTITIES  OF  WATER 
WITH  A  FIRE  ENGINE  IN  GOOD  CONDITION. 


Quantity  of 
Water, 
Gallons  per 
Minute 

MAXIMUM  LIFT  IN  FEET.  ENGINE  DRAFTING 

3"  Suction 

\W  Suction 

4"  Suction 

4M"  Suction 

S"  Suction 

300 

16 

2O 

22y2 

24 

24^  fl 

O 

**3 

400 

8K 

17 

20 

22^ 

24    1 

500 

I21^ 

lS^2 

20^ 

'3     "2 

1 

600 

?_ 

15 

I9H 

21        W) 

700 

41A 

17 

19^ 

800 

6K 

19 

900 

6 

"3^ 

I7       .| 

0 

1,000 

8 

^4/^  w 

*o 

1,100 

7^ 

12       ,|j 

1,200 

4 

9^1 

1,300 

6/2 

1,300 

i 

ength  of 

suction. 

Qx2 

374 


FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 


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lljl 

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O  H 

I1 


1; 

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og 

* 


ll 


Q     H 


•si 


!l 

I21 


i* 

35 

4M 
I 


•s  •sa 
111? 


- 


HI? 
" 


^0 

I      1/>M 


J.. 
o 
0 


! 


•3 


I 


a 


= 


- 


1? 

S5 

O 
I 


I? 

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H 
II 


*3 

Is 

1, 

5^3 

3  h  a 


I 
IIS 

*ZJ! 


APPENDIX 


375 


B8 

si 

3$ 


fl 

§8 


I 

I 


^ 


'o  "ti 

P-s 
6gs 


as 


376  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

FIRE  STREAM  TABLES 

THESE  tables  are  arranged  to  show  the  pressures  re- 
quired at  the  hydrant  or  fire  engine,  while  stream  is  flowing, 
to  maintain  nozzle  pressures  given  in  the  first  columns, 
through  various  lengths  of  2*^,  3  and  3  ^2-inch  rubber 
lined  hose  in  single  lines  and  two  lines  of  2^ -inch  hose 
siamesed. 

Nozzle  pressures  of  40  to  60  pounds  from  1%  and  i%- 
inch  nozzles  will  give  streams  which  may  be  classed  as  good 
and  which  can  be  handled  without  special  appliances;  for 
deluge  sets,  turret  pipes,  etc.,  with  i^-inch  and  larger 
nozzles,  80  to  120  pounds  nozzle  pressure  is  desirable  for 
effective  fire-fighting;  the  height,  area  and  general  charac- 
ter of  the  building  are  factors  in  determining  at  what 
pressure  a  stream  may  be  considered  good,  as  well  as  in 
determining  whether  a  nozzle  is  of  sufficient  size  to  furnish 
an  effective  stream,  nothing  less  than  i^-inch  being  con- 
sidered as  effective  for  outside  work,  except  for  fires  in 
small  buildings.  In  this  connection  it  should  be  noted  that 
a  I  or  i  Y%  -inch  ring  tip  delivers  a  stream  about  j£  inch 
smaller  than  the  diameter  of  the  tip. 

The  pressure  at  the  hydrant  or  fire  engine  is  that  indi- 
cated by  a  gage  attached  to  the  hydrant  or  fire  engine  while 
the  stream  is  flowing.  The  pressure  at  the  nozzle  is  that 
indicated  by  a  Pitot  gage  held  in  the  stream. 

The  hydrant  (or  engine)  pressures  are  obtained  by  add- 
ing to  the  nozzle  pressure  the  friction  loss  in  the  hose,  and 
also  the  small  additional  loss  in,  the  hydrant  outlet  or  en- 
gine discharge. 

Friction  losses  in  hose  are  based  on  tests  of  best  quality 
rubber-lined  fire  hose  and  are  for  loo-foot  lengths  meas- 
ured without  pressure  applied.  Diameters  of  hose,  as  meas- 
ured under  75  pounds  pressure,  assumed  as  the  average 
working  condition,  were  as  follows:  For  nominal  2j/£- 
inch,  2.575  or  about  29/16  inches;  for  nominal  3-inch, 
3.125  or  3j£  inches;  for  nominal  3j^-inch,  3.685  or 
about  3  1 1/ 1 6  inches. 


APPENDIX  377 

The  smoothness  of  the  lining  has  a  very  considerable 
effect  on  the  friction  loss,  some  samples  tested  showing 
losses  50  per  cent,  in  excess  of  those  given.  A  slight  varia- 
tion in  diameter  also  produces  a  marked  difference  in  fric- 
tion loss;  in  the  case  of  2^-inch  hose,  a  variation  of  1/16 
inch  in  diameter  will  result  in  10  per  cent,  difference  in  loss. 
If  properly  beveled  2 J^ -inch  couplings  are  used  on  3-inch 
hose,  the  loss  of  pressure  due  to  them  will  be  less  than  5 
per  cent,  of  that  gained  by  the  use  of  the  larger  hose.  For 
instance,  for  a  flow  of  300  gallons  per  minute,  the  loss  in 
2^ -inch  hose  will  be  about  21  pounds,  in  3-inch  hose  with 
3-inch  couplings  about  8  pounds,  and  in  3-inch  with  2^2- 
inch  couplings  about  8^2  pounds. 

For  siamesed  lines,  an  allowance  was  made  for  the  loss 
in  the  Siamese  connection  and  for  20  feet  of  3^ -inch  lead 
hose. 

The  pressures  given  are  for  the  nozzle  at  the  same  eleva- 
tion as  the  hydrant  or  engine  discharge  outlet.  Add  or 
subtract  i  pound  to  the  pressure  given  for  each  21/3  feet 
difference  in  elevation.  The  arrangement  of  the  table  al- 
lows a  comparison  to  be  readily  made  of  the  results  obtain- 
able with  3-inch  hose  and  siamesed  lines  against  single  lines 
of  2^ -inch  hose. 


378 


FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 


TABLE  OF  NOZZLE  FACTORS 


THE  discharge  in  gallons  per  minute  is  equal  to  the 
square  root  of  the  pressure  multiplied  by  the  factor. 


FACTORS 

Diameter  of  the 

nozzle  in  inches 

For  Fresh  Water      For  Salt  (sea)  Water 

2                                                118.96 

"7-45 

2/4                                           150.56 

148.64 

2j^                                           185.88 

183.50 

2%                                          224.91 

222.05 

3                                  267.66 

264.25 

3/4                            3I4'I3 

310.13 

3^2                             364.32 

359-68 

3%                             418.23 

412.90 

4                                  475.85 

469.79 

4J€                               537-19 

530.35 

4z2                               602.25 

594.58 

4%                               671.02 

662.48 

5                                  743.51 

734.03 

6                              1,070.64 

1,057.00 

For  any  size  nozzles,  the  discharge,  for  fresh  water,  can 
be  determined  by  the  following  formula: 

Gallons  per  minute— 29.83  c  d2  Vp. 

Where  d— diameter  of  nozzle  in  inches,  measured  to 
i/iooo  of  an  inch. 

p— pressure  recorded  on  Pitot  gage  in  pounds. 

c=a  constant,  varying  from  0.990  for  i-inch  nozzle  to 
0.997  for  6-inch  nozzle. 

For  ordinary  use,  the  formula  can  be  reduced  to: 

Gallons  per  minute=29.7  d2  Vp. 


APPENDIX 


379 


FORMULA  FOR  OBTAINING  APPROXIMATE  NOZZLE  OR  ENGINE 

PRESSURES,   LENGTH   OF  LINE  AND  SIZE  OF 

NOZZLE  BEING  GIVEN. 


Engine  Pressure 

Nozzle  Pressure  in  pounds——       —  T^  T  — 

i.i-f~&-  *< 

Engine  Pressure  in  pounds  =  Nozzle  Pressure  (1.1  + 
KL). 

L=  Number  of  50-  foot  lengths  of  hose. 

K=  Constant,  varying  with  size  of  nozzle  and  hose.  See 
Table  following. 


4 

KF 

OR 

ii 

si 

Single 
Line 
2H"  Hose 

Single 
Line 
3"  Hose 

Single 
Line 
ZW'  Hose 

Two 
2W'  Lines 
biamesed 

* 

Two 
3"  Lines 

Siamesed 

* 

3  Lines 

i 

105 

.0^8 

025 

.167 

.062 

.04^ 

* 

.248 

.092 

•039 

.066 

.023 

.028 

I  xX 

•341 

•137 

•059 

.096 

.034 

.043 

1/2 

•SOS 

.192 

.084 

•135 

•051 

.061 

i% 

.680 

.266 

•"3 

.184 

.068 

.084 

i% 

.907 

•351 

.152 

.242 

•093 

."5 

2 

1-550 

.605 

.250 

.418 

•157 

.190 

*  Allowance  is  made  for  loss  in  deluge  set;  these  values  will  also  give 
approximately  correct  figures  for  turret  nozzles  and  water  tower,  except 
that  in  the  latter,  pressure  equal  to  0.434  times  the  height  of  tower  must 
be  subtracted  from  the  engine  pressure,  before  solving  for  nozzle  pressure. 


380 


FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 


EFFECTIVE  REACH  OF  FIRE  STREAMS. 

SHOWING  THE  DISTANCE  IN  FEET  FROM  THE  NOZZLE  AT 
WHICH  STREAMS  WILL  DO  EFFECTIVE  WORK  WITH  A  MODER- 
ATE WIND  BLOWING.  WITH  A  STRONG  WIND  THE  REACH  is 
GREATLY  REDUCED. 


« 

SIZE  OF  NOZZLE. 

£ 

i  -Inch 

li-Inch 

ij-lnch 

It-Inch 

li-Inch 

Pressure  at  '. 

Vertical 
Distance, 
Feet 

Horizontal 
Distance, 
Feet 

Vertical 
Distance, 
Feet 

Horizontal 
Distance, 
Feet 

Vertical 
Distance, 
Feet 

Horizontal 
Distance, 
Feet 

Vertical 
Distance, 
Feet 

Horizontal 
Distance, 
Feet 

Vertical 
Distance, 
Feet 

Horizontal 
Distance, 
Feet 

20 

35 

37 

36 

38 

36 

39 

36 

40 

37 

42 

25 

43 

42 

44 

44 

45 

46 

45 

47 

46 

49 

30 

5i 

47 

52 

50 

52 

52 

53 

54 

54 

56 

35 

58 

5i 

59 

54 

59 

58 

60 

59 

62 

62 

40 

64 

55 

65 

59 

65 

62 

66 

64 

69 

66 

45 

69 

58 

*  70 

63 

70 

66 

72 

68 

74 

7i 

50 

73 

61 

75 

66 

75 

69 

77 

72 

79 

75 

M 

55 

76 

64 

79 

69 

80 

72 

81 

75 

83 

78 

u 

60 

79 

67 

83 

72 

84 

75 

85 

77 

87 

80 

65 

82 

70 

86 

75 

8? 

78 

88 

79 

90 

82 

70 

85 

72 

88 

77 

9o 

80 

9i 

82 

92 

84 

75 

87 

74 

90 

79 

92 

82 

93 

84 

94 

86 

80 

89 

76 

92 

81 

94 

84 

95 

86 

96 

88 

85 

9i 

78 

94 

83 

96 

87 

97 

88 

98 

90 

90 

92 

80 

96 

85 

98 

89 

99 

90 

100 

91 

NOTE. — Nozzle  pressures  are  as  indicated  by  Pitot  tube.  The  horizontal 
and  vertical  distances  are  based  on  experiments  by  Mr.  John  R.  Freeman, 
Transactions,  Am.  Soc.  C.  E.,  Vol.  XXI. 


APPENDIX 
FRICTION  LOSS  IN  FIRE  HOSE. 


38i 


BASED  ON  TESTS  OF  BEST  QUALITY  RUBBER  LINED  FIRE  HOSE.* 


Flow,  Gallons  per 
Minute 

PRESSURE  Loss  IN  EACH 
loo  FEET  OF  HOSE, 
POUNDS  PER  SQ.  INCH 

Flow,  Gallons  per 
Minute 

PRESSURE  Loss  IN 
EACH  loo  FEET  OF 
HOSE,  POUNDS  PER 
SQ.  INCH 

Hole 

Hose 

Hose 

2  Lines 
of  2^2* 
Siamesed 

Hose 

Hose 

2  Lines 
of  2)^* 

Siamesed 

140 

5-2 

2.0 

0.9 

1-4 

525 

23.2 

10.5 

16.6 

1  60 

6.6 

2.6 

1.2 

1.9 

550 

25.2 

II.  4 

18.1 

180 

8-3 

3-2 

1-5 

2-3 

575 

27.5 

12.4 

19.0 

200 

10.  I 

3-9 

1.8 

2.8 

600 

29.9 

13-4 

21.2 

220 

12.0 

4.2 

2.1 

3-3 

625 

32.0 

14.4 

23.0 

240 

I4.I 

5-4 

2.5 

3-9 

650 

34.5 

15.5 

24.8 

260 

16.4 

6-3 

2.9 

4-5 

675 

37-0 

16.6 

26.5 

280 

18.7 

7.2 

3-3 

5-2 

700 

39-5 

17.7 

28.3 

300 

21.2 

8.2 

3-7 

5-9 

725 

42.3 

18.9 

30.2 

320 

23-8 

9.3 

4.2 

6.6 

750 

45-0 

20.  i 

32.2 

340 

26.9 

10.5 

4.7 

7-4 

775 

47-8 

21.4 

34-2 

360 

30.0 

«.  s 

5-2 

8.3 

800 

50.5 

22.7 

36.2 

380 

33.o 

12.8 

5-8 

9.2 

825 

53-5 

24.0 

38.4 

400 

36-2 

14.1 

6.3 

10.  I 

850 

56.5 

25.4 

40.7 

425 

40.8 

15.7 

7.0 

II-3 

875 

59-7 

26.8 

43-1 

450 

45-2 

17.5 

7.9 

12.5 

900 

63.0 

28.2 

45-2 

475 

50.0 

19.3 

8.7 

13-8 

1,000 

76.5 

34-3 

55-0 

500 

55-0 

21.2 

9.5 

15-2 

I,IOO 

91-5 

41.0 

65.5 

*  Rough  rubber  lining  is  liable  to  increase  the  losses  given  in  the  table  as 
much  as  50  per  cent. 


382 


FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 


DISCHARGE  TABLE  FOR!  SMOOTH  NOZZLES. 


NOZZLE   PRESSURE   MEASURED   BY   PITOT   GAGE. 


Nozzle 
Pressure 
in  Ibs.  per 
sq.  inch 

NOZZLE  DIAM. 

IN  INCHES 

Nozzle 
Pressure 
in  Ibs.  per 
sq.  inch 

NOZZLE  DIAM. 

IN  INCHES 

GaUons 

per  minute 

Gallons 

per 

minute 

66 

84 

103 

125 

149 

00 

229 

290 

357 

434 

517 

72 

92 

113 

137 

163 

62 

233 

295 

363 

441 

525 

I 

78 
84 

99 
106 

122 
131 

148 
158 

176 

188 

i 

237 
240 

299 
304 

369 
375 

448 
455 

533 

542 

9 

89 

112 

139 

168 

200 

68 

244 

308 

381 

462 

550 

xo 

93 

118 

146 

177 

2IX 

70 

247 

313 

386 

469 

558 

X2 

102 

130 

160 

194 

231 

73 

251 

391 

475 

566 

It 

no 
118 

140 
ISO 

173 
185 

210 

224 

249 
267 

i 

254 
258 

322 

326 

397 
402 

482 
488 

574 
582 

18 

125 

159 

196 

237 

283 

78 

261 

330 

407 

494 

589 

30 

132 

167 

206 

250 

298 

80 

264 

335 

413 

50O 

596 

32 

139 

175 

216 

263 

313 

82 

268 

339 

418 

507 

604 

34 

145 

183 

226 

275 

327 

84 

271 

343 

423 

513 

6n 

26 

151 

191 

235 

286 

340 

86 

274 

347 

428 

519 

618 

28 

157 

198 

244 

297 

353 

88 

277 

351 

433 

525 

626 

30 

162 

205 

253 

307 

365 

90 

280 

355 

438 

531 

633 

33 

167 

212 

261 

317 

377 

93 

283 

359 

443 

537 

640 

i 

172 
177 

218 
224 

269 
277 

327 
336 

389 
400 

§ 

286 
289 

363 
367 

447 
452 

543 

549 

647 
654 

38 

182 

231 

285 

34S 

411 

98 

292 

370 

456 

554 

660 

40 

187 

237 

292 

354 

422 

100 

295 

374 

461 

560 

667 

43 

192 

243 

299 

363 

432 

105 

303 

383 

473 

574 

683 

196 

248 

306 

372 

442 

xzo 

310 

392 

484 

588 

699 

46 

200 

254 

313 

380 

452 

115 

317 

401 

495 

600 

715 

48 

205 

259 

320 

388 

462 

X2O 

324 

410 

505 

613 

730 

50 

209 

265 

326 

396 

472 

X35 

331 

418 

5i6 

626 

745 

52 

213 

270 

333 

404 

481 

130 

337 

427 

526 

638 

760 

U 

217 
221 

275 
280 

339 
345 

412 
419 

490 
499 

140 

343 
350 

435 

443 

536 
546 

650 
662 

789 

58 

225 

285 

351 

426 

508 

145 

356 

450 

556 

674 

803 

60 

229 

290 

357 

434 

517 

ISO 

362 

458 

565 

686 

'" 

Assumed  coefficient  of  discharge  per  cent.  =  .99     .99     .99   .99^   -99H 
NOTE. — Coefficients  of  discharge  are  based  on  experiments  by  Mr*  John  R.  Freeman, 
Transactions  Am.  Soc.  C.  E..  Vols.  XXI  and  ~~ 


APPENDIX 


383 


DISCHARGE  TABLE  FOR  SMOOTH  NOZZLES. 


NOZZLE   PRESSURE    MEASURED   BY   PITOT  GAGE. 


Nozzle 
Pressure 
in  Ibs.  per 
sq.  inch 

NOZZLE  DIAM. 

IN  INCHES 

a   2Li 

Nozzle 
Pressure 
in  Ibs.  per 
sq.  inch 

NOZZLE  DIAM.  IN 

INCHES 

2    2>i 

Gallons 

per 

minute 

Gallons 

per  minute 

Z7S 

203 

234 

266 

337 

60 

607 

704 

810 

920 

1167 

192 

223 

256 

292 

309 

62 

617 

716 

823 

936 

1187 

i 

207 
222 

241 
257 

277 
296 

315 
336 

399 
427 

66 

627 
636 

727 
738 

836 
850 

951 
965 

1206 
1224 

9 

235 

273 

357 

452 

68 

646 

750 

862 

980 

1242 

KO 
Z3 

i 

248 
271 
293 
313 

288 
315 

330 
362 
391 
418 

376 

412 

445 
475 

477 

522 

70 

72 

i 

% 

Hi 

761 

771 
782 
792 

875 
887 

000 

911 

994 
1008 
1023 
103*6 

1260 
1278 
1296 
1313 

18 

332 

386 

444 

504 

640 

78 

692 

803 

924 

1050 

1330 

30 

350 

407 

468 

532 

674 

80 

700 

813 

935 

1063 

1347 

33 

307 

427 

490 

557 

707 

82 

709 

823 

946 

1076 

1364 

34 

384 

446 

512 

582 

739 

fj 

833 

959 

1089 

1380 

3O 

400 

464 

533 

606 

709 

86 

726 

843 

970 

1  1  02 

1396 

38 

415 

48! 

554 

629 

799 

88 

735 

853 

981 

1115 

1412 

30 

429 

498 

572 

651 

826 

90 

743 

862 

992 

1128 

1429 

n 

443 

514 

591 

673 

854 

92 

751 

872 

1002 

1140 

1445 

i 

457 
470 

530 
546 

610 
627 

693 
713 

880 
90S 

90 

759 
767 

881 
800 

1012 
1022 

1152 
1164 

1460 
1476 

38 

483 

56i 

645 

733 

930 

98 

775 

900 

1032 

1176 

Z49I 

40 

496 

575 

661 

752 

954 

zoo 

783 

909 

1043 

1189 

1506 

42 

508 

589 

678 

770 

978 

zos 

803 

932 

1070 

1218 

1542 

i 

520 
531 

603 
617 

694 
710 

788 
806 

1000 
IO2I 

ZIO 

zi5 

822 
840 

954 
975 

1095 
II2O 

1247 
1275 

1579 
1615 

48 

543 

630 

725 

824 

1043 

Z30 

858 

996 

ZI44 

1303 

1649 

50 

52 

554 
565 

643 

656 

740 

754 

84I 
857 

1065 
1087 

125 
130 

876 
893 

1016 
1036 

1168 
1191 

1329 
1356 

1683 
1717 

i 

576 
586 

668 
680 

769 
782 

873 
889 

1108 

1129 

135 
Z40 

910 
927 

1056 
1076 

1213 
1235 

1382 
1407 

1750 
1780 

58 

596 

692 

796 

905 

1149 

145 

944 

1095 

1257 

1432 

1812 

60 

607 

704 

810 

920 

1  1  68 

150 

060 

1114 

1279 

1456 

1843 

Assumed  coefficient  of  discharge  per  cent. »   .995     .995     .996     .997     .997 


384  FIRES  AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

i-INCH  SMOOTH  NOZZLE.— 


PRESSURES  REQUIRED  AT  HYDRANT  OR 

a 

MAINTAIN  NOZZLE  PRESSURES  GIVEN 

|  >,<u 

LENGTHS  OF  BEST  QUALITY 

§1uO 

<p 

^?s 

Single  2^-inch  Lines 

lls 

§  £ 

OH-I 

&  ^ 

S3 

3 

TOO 

200 

300 

400 

500 

600 

700 

800 

Feet 

Feet 

Feet 

Feet 

Feet 

Feet 

Feet 

Feet 

20 

132 

25 

30 

35 

39 

44 

49 

53 

58 

25 

148 

31 

37 

43 

49 

55 

60 

66 

72 

30 

162 

38 

44 

Si 

58 

65 

72 

78 

85 

35 

175 

44 

52 

59 

67 

75 

83 

9i 

98 

40 

187 

50 

59 

68 

77 

86 

94 

103 

112 

45 

198 

56 

66 

76 

86 

96 

106 

"5 

125 

50 

209 

62 

73 

84 

95 

106 

117 

128 

139 

55 

219 

68 

80 

92 

104 

116 

128 

140 

152 

60 

229 

75 

88 

101 

114 

127 

140 

153 

166 

65 

238 

81 

95 

109 

123 

137 

i5i 

165 

179 

70 

247 

87 

IO2 

117 

132 

147 

162 

177 

192 

75 

256 

93 

109 

125 

141 

157 

173 

189 

205 

80 

264 

99 

116 

133 

150 

167 

183 

200 

217 

85 

272 

105 

123 

141 

159 

177 

195 

212 

230 

90 

280 

in 

130 

149 

167 

186 

205 

224 

243 

95 

287 

117 

137 

157 

177 

196 

216 

236 

256 

100 

295 

123 

144 

165 

185 

206 

227 

247 

268 

APPENDIX 
-  AND  3-INCH  HOSE. 


385 


FIRE  ENGINE,  WHILE  STREAM  is  FLOWING,  TO 
IN  FIRST  COLUMN,  THROUGH  VARIOUS 
2^-  AND  3-iNCH  RUBBER  LINED  HOSE 

§*«, 

Single  3-inch  Lines 

Two  2%-'mch 
Lines  Siamesed 

1,000 

Feet 

I,20O 

Feet 

800 

Feet 

1,000 
Feet 

I,2OO 

Feet 

1,500 
Feet 

1,000 

Feet 

1,500 
Feet 

2,000 

Feet 

68 

77 

35 

39 

42 

48 

33 

40 

46 

20 

84 

95 

43 

48 

52 

59 

4i 

49 

57 

25 

99 

112 

52 

57 

62 

70 

49 

59 

68 

30 

H4 

I30 

60 

66 

72 

81 

57 

68 

79 

35 

130 

148 

68 

75 

82 

92 

65 

78 

90 

40 

145 

165 

77 

84 

92 

103 

72 

86 

99 

45 

1  60 

182 

85 

93 

102 

114 

80 

95 

no 

50 

175 

199 

93 

IO2 

112 

125 

88 

105 

121 

55 

192 

218 

102 

112 

122 

137 

96 

114 

132 

60 

207 

235 

no 

121 

131 

148 

103 

122 

141 

65 

222 

252 

118 

130 

141 

159 

in 

132 

152 

70 

237 

269 

127 

139 

151 

170 

120 

142 

164 

75 

251 

285 

135 

148 

161 

181 

128 

151 

i75 

80 

266 

302 

143 

156 

170 

191 

135 

159 

184 

85 

280 

*  .  .  ... 

I5i 

165 

180 

202 

143 

169 

195 

90 

295 



158 

173 

189 

211 

150 

177 

204 

95 

310 



167 

183 

199 

223 

157 

186 

215 

100 

386 


FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

iJ4-INCH  SMOOTH  NOZZLE.— 


Ctf  -M 

JS.H  S 

to 

JL 
s 

PRESSURES  REQUIRED  AT  HYDRANT  OR  FIRE 
NOZZLE  PRESSURES  GIVEN  IN  FIRST 
QUALITY  2^2-  AND 

Single  2  }4-inch  Lines 

IOO 

Feet 

200 

Feet 

300 

Feet 

4OO 

Feet 

500 

Feet 

600 

Feet 

7OO 

Feet 

800 

Feet 

1,000 

Feet 

I,2OO 

Feet 

20 

i67 

28 

35 

42 

49 

56 

64 

71 

78 

92 

107 

25 

i87 

35 

44 

53 

62 

71 

79 

88 

97 

"5 

133 

30 

205 

42 

52 

63 

73 

84 

95 

105 

116 

137 

158 

35 

221 

49 

61 

73 

85 

97 

IIO 

122 

134 

158 

183 

40 

237 

55 

69 

83 

96 

IIO 

124 

138 

I5i 

179 

206 

45 

251 

62 

77 

93 

108 

123 

139 

154 

169 

200 

230 

50 

265 

69 

86 

103 

120 

137 

154 

171 

188 

222 

256 

55 

277 

76 

94 

112 

131 

149 

168 

186 

204 

241 

278 

60 

290 

83 

103 

123 

143 

163 

183 

203 

223 

263 

304 

65 

301 

89 

in 

132 

154 

175 

197 

218 

240 

283 

326 

70 

313 

96 

119 

142 

165 

1  88 

211 

234 

257 

303 



75 
80 

85 
90 

95 

100 

324 

345 
355 

374 

103 
no 
116 
123 

136 

128 

144 

IS2 
160 
168 

152 
l62 
171 

181 
191 

201 

177 

188 
199 

2IO 
222 
233 

202 

226 
240 
252 
265 

227 
241 

254 
269 
283 
297 

252 
267 
282 
298 

329 

276 
294 
309 
327 

325 



APPENDIX 
2^-INCH  AND  3-INCH  HOSE. 


387 


ENGINE,  WHILE  STREAM  is  FLOWING,  TO  MAINTAIN 
COLUMN,  THROUGH  VARIOUS  LENGTHS  OF  BEST 
3-iNCH  RUBBER  LINED  HOSE 

w 

§3 
8S 

££ 

•3-8 
|1 

Single  3-inch  Lines 

Two  2%-mch  Lines 
Siamesed 

400 

Feet 

600 

Feet 

800 

Feet 

1,000 

Feet 

1,200 

Feet 

1,500 

Feet 

i,  800 

Feet 

800 

Feet 

1,000 
Feet 

1,200 

Feet 

1,500 

Feet 

1,  800 

Feet 

32 

37 

43 

48 

54 

62 

71 

38 

42 

46 

53 

60 

20 

40 

46 

53 

60 

67 

77 

87 

45 

50 

55 

63 

70 

25 

47 

55 

63 

71 

79 

9i 

103 

53 

59 

65 

74 

82 

30 

55 

65 

74 

83 

93 

107 

121 

62 

69 

76 

86 

96 

35 

63 

73 

84 

95 

105 

121 

137 

70 

78 

86 

97 

108 

40 

70 

82 

94 

106 

118 

135 

153 

79 

87 

95 

108 

121 

45 

78 

9i 

104 

117 

130 

150 

169 

88 

98 

107 

121 

135 

50 

86 

100 

114 

128 

142 

164 

185 

96 

107 

117 

132 

U7 

55 

93 

109 

124 

139 

155 

I78 

201 

i°5 

116 

127 

143 

1  60 

60 

101 

117 

134 

151 

167 

192 

217 

114 

126 

138 

156 

174 

65 

108 

126 

144 

162 

1  80 

206 

233 

122 

135 

148 

I67 

186 

70 

116 

135 

154 

173 

192 

221 

249 

130 

144 

157 

I78 

198 

75 

124 

144 

165 

i85 

206 

236 

267 

138 

153 

167 

189 

2IO 

80 

131 

153 

174 

195 

217 

249 

28l 

147 

163 

178 

201 

224 

85 

139 

161 

184 

207 

229 

263 

297 

156 

172 

188 

212 

237 

90 

146 

170 

194 

218 

242 

277 

313 

164 

181 

198 

224 

249 

95 

154 

178 

203 

228 

253 

290 



172 

190 

208 

235 

26l 

100 

388 


FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 


SMOOTH  NOZZLE.— 


Nozzle  Pressure 
o  Indicated  by 
Pitot  Gage 

Discharge,  Gallons 
per  Minute 

PRESSURES  REQUIRED  AT  HYDRANT  OR  FIRE 
PRESSURES  GIVEN  IN  FIRST  COLUMN, 

2^-  AND  3-INCH 

Single  2^-inch  Lines 

IOO 

Feet 

200 

Feet 

300 

Feet 

4OO 

Feet 

500 

Feet 

6OO 

Feet 

700 

Feet 

96 

800 

Feet 

1,000 

Feet 

1,200 

Feet 

206 

32 

42 

53 

64 

75 

85 

107 

128 

149 

25 

230 

40 

53 

66 

79 

92 

105 

118 

131 

158 

184 

30 

253 

48 

63 

79 

95 

no 

126 

142 

157 

189 

220 

35 

273 

55 

73 

9i 

109 

127 

145 

163 

181 

217 

253 

40 

292 

63 

83 

104 

124 

144 

165 

185 

206 

246 

287 

45 

309 

70 

93 

116 

138 

161 

183 

206 

229 

274 

319 

50 

326 

78 

103 

128 

153 

178 

203 

228 

253 

303 



55 
60 

65 
70 

75 
80 

85 
90 

95 

IOO 

342 
357 
372 
386 

399 
413 

438 
461 

86 
93 

101 

108 
116 
124 

139 
146 

153 

123 

142 
152 
163 
172 
182 
191 

201 

140 

152 
164 
176 
188 

201 
213 
225 
236 
248 

167 
182 
196 

210 
224 
240 

254 
269 
282 
295 

194 

211 
228 
244 
26l 
279 

312 

327 

222 
241 
260 

297 
318 

249 
270 

202 
3I2 

333 

276 
300 
323 

33° 



APPENDIX 


389 


-  AND  3-INCH  HOSE. 


ENGINE,  WHILE  STREAM  is  FLOWING,  TO  MAINTAIN  NOZZLE 

, 

THROUGH  VARIOUS  LENGTHS  OF  BEST  QUALITY 

H8> 

RUBBER  LINED  HOSE 

£ 

&  Q 

Single  3-inch  Lines 

Two  2^-inch  Lines 
Siamesed 

$& 

£j? 

'N  IB 

400 

Ft. 

600 
Ft. 

800 

Ft. 

1,000 

Feet 

I,20O 

Feet 

1,500 

Feet 

1,  800 
Feet 

600 

Ft. 

800 
Ft. 

1,000 
Feet 

I,2OO 

Feet 

1,500 

Feet 

i,  800 

Feet 

S  ^ 

0  oJ 

^  ° 

37 

46 

54 

62 

70 

83 

95 

39 

45 

51 

57 

67 

76 

20 

47 

57 

67 

77 

87 

102 

117 

48 

55 

62 

70 

80 

91 

25 

56 

68 

81 

93 

105 

123 

142 

57 

66 

74 

83 

96 

109 

30 

65 

79 

92 

106 

120 

141 

161 

66 

76 

86 

95 

no 

125 

35 

74 

89 

105 

120 

136 

159 

183 

75 

87 

99 

.  no 

127 

144 

40 

83 

IOO 

117 

135 

152 

I78 

204 

84 

96 

109 

121 

140 

158 

45 

9i 

in 

130 

149 

168 

I97 

226 

93 

107 

121 

135 

155 

I76 

50 

IOO 

121 

142 

163 

184 

216 

247 

102 

117 

132 

147 

169 

192 

55 

109 

132 

155 

178 

201 

235 

270 

III 

128 

144 

1  60 

185 

210 

60 

118 

U3 

167 

192 

217 

254 

291 

120 

137 

155 

173 

199 

225 

65 

127 

154 

180 

206 

233 

272 



129 

147 

166 

185 

213 

241 

70 

136 

164 

192 

220 

248 

290 

137 

157 

177 

197 

227 

257 

75 

14  "? 

17"? 

2o< 

21$ 

26^ 

147 

160 

IOO 

212 

244 

276 

80 

"O 

153 

/  o 

184 

**v  j 
216 

O  D 
247 

•WJ 

279 

•  ^  / 

156 

;/ 

179 

y 

2OI 

224 

258 

/ 

292 

85 

162 

195 

228 

26l 

295 

165 

189 

213 

237 

273 

309 

90 

170 

205 

240 

275 

173 

198 

223 

248 

286 

323 

95 

179 

215 

252 

288 

182 

208 

235 

26l 

300 



IOO 

390 


FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

SMOOTH  NOZZLE.— 


*5  <u 
3% 

|| 

Is 

l| 

3 

PRESSURES  REQUIRED  AT  HYDRANT  OR  FIRE 
NOZZLE  PRESSURES  GIVEN  IN  FIRST 
QUALITY  2^-  AND 

Single  2  ^2-inch  Lines 

100 

Feet 

200 

Feet 

300 
Feet 

400 
Feet 

500 
Feet 

6OO 

Feet 

700 

Feet 

800 

Feet 

200 

Feet 

4OO 

Feet 

20 

250 

37 

52 

68 

83 

98 

"3 

128 

144 

34 

45 

25 

280 

46 

64 

83 

102 

121 

139 

158 

177 

41 

56 

30 

307 

55 

77 

99 

121 

144 

166 

188 

210 

50 

67 

35 

331 

64 

89 

H5 

140 

166 

191 

217 

242 

58 

78 

40 

354 

73 

IO2 

131 

1  60 

189 

218 

247 

276 

67 

89 

45 

376 

81 

114 

146 

I78 

211 

243 

275 

307 

74 

99 

50 

396 

90 

125 

161 

196 

222 

257 

293 

328 

82 

109 

55 
60 

65 
70 

75 
80 

85 
90 

95 

100 

434 

469 

485 
500 

5i6 
531 
546 

560 

99 
107 
116 
125 

142 

159 
168 

177 

137 
149 
161 
173 

196 
209 
220 
232 
244 

176 
191 
206 

222 
237 
251 
267 
28l 

297 
312 

215 
233 

270 
289 
305 
325 

254 
276 

297 
319 

292 

331 

90 

98 
106 

114 

122 
130 

138 
146 

153 
l62 

121 

141 

152 

172 

183 
194 
203 
215 

APPENDIX 


39i 


J-  AND  3-INCH  HOSE 


ENGINE,  WHILE  STREAM  is  FLOWING,  TO  MAINTAIN 
COLUMN,  THROUGH  VARIOUS  LENGTHS  OF  BEST 
3-iNCH  RUBBER  LINED  HOSE 

•3  <u 
££ 
<u° 

T4       O 

to  •*"* 

|£ 

.0 
JH  *& 

"  cfl 
O    y 

Single  3-inch  Lines 

Two  2^-inch  Lines  Siamesed 

600 

Ft. 

8OO 

Feet 

I,OOO 

Feet 

1,200 

Feet 

1,500 
Feet 

400 

Feet 

600 

Feet 

800 
Feet 

1,000 
Feet 

1  ,2OO 

Feet 

1,500 
Feet 

1,  800 
Feet 

57 

68 

80 

92 

109 

37 

46 

54 

63 

71 

84 

96 

2O 

70 

85 

99 

"3 

135 

46 

57 

67 

78 

88 

104 

119 

25 

84 

101 

118 

135 

161 

56 

68 

81 

93 

106 

124 

143 

30 

97 

117 

137 

157 

187 

65 

80 

94 

108 

122 

143 

165 

35 

112 

134 

157 

180 

214 

74 

90 

1  06 

122 

138 

162 

186 

40 

125 

150 

175 

200 

238 

83 

IOI 

119 

137 

155 

182 

209 

45 

137 

164 

192 

220 

267 

92 

in 

131 

151 

171 

2OI 

230 

50 

ISI 

182 

212 

242 

288 

100 

122 

144 

165 

I87 

219 

252 

55 

163 

196 

229 

262 

.  .  .  . 

109 

133 

156 

1  80 

203 

238 

273 

60 

177 

212 

247 

282 



118 

U3 

168 

194 

219 

257 

294 

65 

189 
203 

215 
22Q 
241 

254 
267 

227 
243 
257 
274 
289 
304 

265 
283 
300 

303 



128 
137 
US 
153 
162 
170 
179 

155 
165 
175 

186 
196 
206 
217 

182 
194 
206 
218 
230 
241 
254 

209 
223 
236 
250 
264 

277 
291 

236 

252 
266 
282 
298 
313 
329 

277 

295 
312 

331 

317 

70 

75 
80 

85 
90 

95 

IOO 

392 


FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

SMOOTH  NOZZLE. 


It 
gS 

|s 

Q-i  fc""» 

,Q 

^'g 
N  ^j 

8  ca 
£° 

1 
If 

aT'^3 
ffc 

3 

PRESSURES  REQUIRED  AT  HYDRANT  OR  FIRE 
NOZZLE  PRESSURES  GIVEN  IN  FIRST 
QUALITY  2^-  AND 

Single  2^2-inch  Lines 

Single 

IOO 

Feet 

200 

Feet 

300 
Feet 

400 
Feet 

500 
Feet 

600 

Feet 

700 

Feet 

800 

Feet 

200 
Feet 

4OO 

Feet 

600 

Feet 

20 

25 
30 

35 
40 

45 
50 
55 
60 

65 
70 

75 
80 

85 
90 

95 

100 

298 

333 
365 
394 
422 

447 
472 

494 
517 
537 
558 
578 
596 
614 

633 
65o 
667 

44 
54 
65 
75 
85 
96 
106 
116 
126 
136 
146 
156 
166 
176 
187 
197 
207 

65 
80 

95 
no 
126 
141 

155 
170 
184 
198 
213 
228 
242 

257 
272 
286 
300 

86 
106 
126 

145 
166 

185 
205 
224 
242 
261 
281 
299 
3i8 
337 

107 
132 

157 
181 
206 
230 

254 
278 
301 
324 

128 
158 
188 
216 
246 
275 
304 
332 

149 
184 

219 

251 
286 
320 

170 

210 
250 
287 
327 

191 
236 
280 
322 

39 
48 

58 
67 
76 

85 
95 
104 

H3 

122 

131 
140 

149 
158 
I67 
I76 

185 

55 
68 
81 

94 

107 

I2O 
133 
145 
158 
170 

183 
196 
208 
22O 
233 
245 
257 

71 

88 

105 

122 

139 
155 
171 

I87 

203 

218 

235 
251 
267 
282 
298 
314 

APPENDIX 
AND  3-INCH  HOSE. 


393 


ENGINE,  WHILE  STREAM  is  FLOWING,  TO  MAINTAIN 

-™  o> 

COLUMN,  THROUGH  VARIOUS  LENGTHS  OF  BEST 

o  §> 

3-iNCH  RUBBER  LINED  HOSE 

Jo 

3  •*•* 

tn  Q 

3-inch  Lines 

Two  2^2-inch  Lines  Siamesed 

^£ 

£• 

800 
Feet 

1,000 

Feet 

1,200 

Feet 

1,500 
Feet 

200 

Feet 

400 

Feet 

600 

Feet 

800 
Feet 

1,000 
Feet 

I,2OO 

Feet 

1,500 
Feet 

1.800 

Feet 

cated  1 

87 

104 

I2O 

144 

33 

45 

56 

68 

79 

91 

108 

126 

20 

108 

128 

148 

I78 

41 

56 

70 

84 

99 

"3 

135 

156 

25 

129 

153 

177 

212 

49 

66 

83 

IOO 

117 

134 

1  60 

185 

30 

149 

177 

204 

245 

57 

77 

96 

116 

135 

155 

184 

214 

35 

170 

201 

232 

279 

65 

88 

no 

132 

155 

177 

211 

244 

40 

189 

224 

258 



73 

97 

122 

146 

171 

196 

233 

269 

45 

209 

247 

286 



81 

108 

136 

163 

190 

218 

259 

300 

50 

228 

2  7O 

88 

TT8 

118 

178 

208 

237 

282 

327 

55 

248 

293 

96 

128 

161 

193 

225 

257 

305 

60 

267 

104. 

I  3Q 

ml 

208 

24.3 

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65 

287 

112 

149 

186 

223 

261 

298 

70 

307 

I2O 

160 

IOO 

230 

270 

310 

75 

127 

I7O 

212 

2C4 

206 

80 

*~t 

J2  C 

*  /  w 
170 

224 

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313 

85 

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237 

?8i 

no 

152 

*aH* 
201 

•*o/ 
251 

30i 

95 

1  60 

212 

264 

316 

IOO 

394 


FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

i^-INCH  SMOOTH  NOZZLE.— 


^*° 

£H  CJ 

s 

PRESSURES  REQUIRED  AT  HYDRANT  OR  FIRE 
NOZZLE  PRESSURES  GIVEN  IN  FIRST 
QUALITY  2%-  AND 

Single  2^-inch  Lines 

Single  3-inch 

100 

Feet 

200 

Feet 

300 

Feet 

400 

Feet 

500 

Feet 

600 

Feet 

200 

Feet 

400 

Feet 

600 
Feet 

800 
Feet 

20 

25 
30 

35 
40 

45 
50 

55 
60 

65 
70 

75 
80 

85 
90 

95 

100 

350 
392 
429 

463 

496 
525 

554 

607 
631 

655 
678 
700 
722 
743 
763 
783 

52 
65 
77 
89 

IOI 

125 

137 
149 
162 

173 
184 
197 
209 
220 
232 
244 

80 
100 

118 
136 
155 
173 
192 

210 
228 
246 
263 
28l 
299 
317 

1  08 

135 
1  60 
184 
208 

233 
258 
282 
306 
330 

136 
170 

2OI 

231 
262 

293 
324 

165 
205 
242 

279 

193 
240 
284 
326 

46 

57 

68 

78 
89 

100 

in 

121 
132 
143 
153 

174 
184 

20$ 

216 

68 
84 
100 

115 

146 
162 

178 

193 

209 
223 
237 
253 

269 
299 

90 
ill 
132 
152 
173 
193 
214 

234 

254 

275 
294 
312 

112 

138 
164 
189 
215 

239 
265 
290 

APPENDIX 
-  AND  3-INCH  HOSE. 


395 


ENGINE,  WHILE  STREAM  is  FLOWING,  TO  MAINTAIN 
COLUMN,  THROUGH  VARIOUS  LENGTHS  OF  BEST 
3-iNCH  RUBBER  LINED  HOSE 

i 

Lines 

Two  2^-inch  Lines  Siamesed 

1,000 

Feet 

1,200 
Feet 

200 

Feet 

400 
Feet 

600 
Feet 

800 
Feet 

I,OOO 

Feet 

1,200 
Feet 

1,500 
Feet 

i,  800 
Feet 

134 
165 
196 
226 

257 
286 

156 
192 
228 
263 
299 

37 
47 
56 
65 
74 
82 

9i 

IOO 

109 
118 
126 

153 

170 
179 

53 
66 

79 

91 
104 

116 
128 
140 

153 
164 
176 
189 

201 

237 
249 

68 
85 

IO2 
117 

134 
149 

181 
196 

211 

226 
242 

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APPENDIX 
AND  3-INCH  HOSE. 


397 


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600 

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FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 


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APPENDIX 
AND  3-INCH  HOSE. 


399 


ENGINE,  WHILE  STREAM  is  FLOWING,  TO  MAINTAIN 
COLUMN,  THROUGH  VARIOUS  LENGTHS  OF  BEST 
3-iNCH  RUBBER  LINED  HOSE 

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cated by  Pitot  Gage. 

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APPENDIX  401 

i^-INCH  SMOOTH  NOZZLE.— 3 ^-INCH  HOSE. 


1  Nozzle  Pressure  Indi- 
cated by  Pitot  Gage 

to 

a 

PRESSURES  REQUIRED  AT  HYDRANT  OR  FIRE  EN- 
GINE, WHILE  STREAM  IS  FLOWING,  TO  MAINTAIN  NOZ- 

ZLE  PRESSURES  GIVEN  IN  FIRST  COLUMN,  THROUGH 
VARIOUS  LENGTHS  OF  BEST  QUALITY  3^-iNCH  RUB- 
BER LINED  HOSE 

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cated  by  Pitot  Gage  (I 

400 

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700 
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20 

250 

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34 

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65 

75 

85 

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50 

54 

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62 

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63 

67 

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81 

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299 

95 

100 

560 

150 

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173 

185 

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220 

244 

279 

315 

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402 


FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 
SMOOTH  NOZZLE.—  3M-INCH  HOSE. 


Nozzle  Pressure  Indi- 
cated by  Pitot  Gage 

w 

a 

oj 

J3  & 

o  CX 

PEESSURES  REQUIRED  AT  HYDRANT  OR  FIRE 
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AIN  NOZZLE  PRESSURES  GIVEN  IN  FIRST  COL- 
UMN, THROUGH  VARIOUS  LENGTHS  OF  BEST 

QUALITY  3^-iNCH  RUBBER  LINED  HOSE 

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50 

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207 

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APPENDIX  403 

i%-INCH  SMOOTH  NOZZLE.— 3^-INCH  HOSE. 


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cated by  Pitot  Gage 

g  v 

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It 

PRESSURES  REQUIRED  AT  HYDRANT  OR  FIRE  EN- 
GINE, WHILE  STREAM  IS  FLOWING,  TO  MAINTAIN  NOZ- 

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85 
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404  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

i^g-INCH  SMOOTH  NOZZLE.— 3  ^-INCH  HOSE. 


ii 

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11 

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405 


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406  FIRES   AND    FIRE-FIGHTERS 

As  fire-fighting  is  not  and  probably  will  never  be  an 
exact  science,  the  following  rules  are  given  as  a  guide  to 
men  who  may  not  have  had  the  advantage  of  a  higher 
mathematical  education.  It  is  not  claimed  that  these  rules 
are  absolutely  correct  but  they  are  sufficiently  accurate  to 
be  of  practical  value  and  can  easily  be  understood  by  any 
man  in  the  fire  service  of  any  country. 

1.  For  placing  of  ladders. 

In  placing  an  extension  ladder,  the  hub  of  front  wheel 
should  be  placed  opposite  centre  of  window,  and  when 
placed  at  proper  distance  from  base  of  building,  extended 
so  as  to  be  i  ft.  and  3  inches  over  the  window  sill  and  i  ft. 
from  the  building.  The  foot  of  ladder  should  be  placed 
according  to  following  rule : 

Divide  length  of  ladder  in  feet  by  5  and  add  2. 

The  point  of  ladder  should  not  rest  against  the  building, 
but  should  be  about  one  foot  from  it. 

2.  For  obtaining  discharge  in  gallons,  when  nozzle  pres- 
sure is  given. 

Square  diameter  of  nozzle. 

Multiply  above  product  by  the  average  barometric  pres- 
sure 29.9. 

Then  multiply  this  by  the  square  root  of  the  nozzle 
pressure. 

Example: 

What  would  be  the  discharge  of  a  ij^-inch  nozzle  work- 
ing at  100  Ibs.  pressure? 

1.5X1.5  equals  2.25. 

2.25X29.9  equals  67.275. 

The  square  root  of  100  is  10. 

67X10  equals  670  gallons  discharge. 

3.  For  determining  number  of  lengths  of  hose  required 
when  location  of  fire  is  known  in  building. 

i  length  of  hose  for  each  story  and  i  length  for  good 
measure. 


APPENDIX  407 

Example: 

How  many  lengths  would  be  required  to  stretch  to  the 
7th  story. 

7  lengths  for  height  and  I  length  to  cover  floor  or  8 
lengths. 

4.  For  obtaining  pressure  required  to  deliver  water  at 
any  given  point  in  a  stand-pipe. 

Multiply  height  in  feet  by  constant  .434  and  add  25  Ibs. 
for  friction.  (5  Ibs.  for  entry  in  Siamese  connection,  10 
Ibs.  for  loss  in  passing  through  swing  check,  and  10  Ibs. 
for  outlet  valve.) 

Example: 

What  pressure  would  be  required  to  deliver  water  to 
outlet  on  1 2th  floor  or  at  150  feet? 

15°  X  434  equals  65  Ibs. 

65  plus  25  Ibs.  for  friction  equals  90  Ibs.  pressure  re- 
quired to  deliver  water  at  that  point.  (To  this  must  be 
added  the  nozzle  pressure  desired.) 

5.  For  obtaining  pressure  exerted  by  water  dropping 
from  a  tank  through  a  stand-pipe  at  any  given  point. 

Divide  drop  in  feet  by  constant  2.31. 

Example: 

What  pressure  would  there  be  at  an  outlet  on  ground 
floor  from  a  tank  located  150  ft.  above?  (150  divided  by 
2.31=65  Ibs.) 

6.  For  obtaining  the  friction  in  hose. 

Friction  loss  in  hose  is  controlled  by  the  amount  of  flow, 
and  is  calculated  as  of  100  ft.  lengths. 

Loss  in  3>i"  hose. 

For  a  flow  of  500  to  1,200  gallons  per  minute. 

The  loss  for  first  500  gallons  is  9.5  Ibs.  and  for  each 
10  gallons  over  up  to  1,200  add  .6  of  a  Ib. 

Example: 

What  would  be  the  loss  in  100  ft.  of  3J4"  hose  discharg- 
ing 800  gallons  per  minute? 


4o8  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

For  first  500  gallons  would  be  9.5  Ibs.  and  for  the  300 
gallons  over  (which  is  30X10),  should  be  added  3OX-6 
or  1 8  Ibs.  to  the  9.5,  which  would  be  27.5  Ibs.  loss  in 
friction. 

Loss  in  3"  hose. 

For  a  flow  of  200  to  400  gallons  per  minute. 

The  loss  for  first  200  gallons  is  4  Ibs.  and  for  each  10 
gallons  over,  up  to  400  add  .5  of  a  Ib. 

Example: 

What  would  be  the  loss  in  400  ft.  of  3"  hose  discharg- 
ing 310  gallons  per  minute? 

For  first  200  gallons  the  loss  would  be  4  Ibs.  and  for  the 
no  over  (which  is  11X10),  should  be  added  iiX-5>  or 
5.5  Ibs.  to  the  4  Ibs.,  which  would  be  9.5  Ibs.  for  each  100 
ft,  and  for  400  ft.  would  be  4X9.5,  or  38  Ibs.  loss. 

For  a  flow  of  400  to  700  gallons  per  minute. 

The  loss  for  first  400  gallons  is  14  Ibs.  and  for  each  10 
gallons  over,  up  to  700,  add  .8  of  a  Ib.  (figured  as  above). 

Loss  in  2^/2"  hose. 

For  a  flow  of  200  to  400  gallons  per  minute. 

The  loss  for  first  200  gallons  is  10  Ibs.  and  for  each  10 
gallons  over,  up  to  400,  add  1.3  Ibs. 

Example: 

What  would  be  the  loss  in  300  ft.  of  2^/2"  hose  dis- 
charging 350  gallons  per  minute. 

The  loss  for  first  200  gallons  is  10  Ibs.  and  for  the  150 
gallons  (which  is  15X10),  should  be  added  15X1.3  or 
20  Ibs.,  to  the  10  which  would  be  30  Ibs.  for  each  100  ft., 
and  for  300  ft.  the  loss  would  be  3X30  or  90  Ibs. 

7.  For  effective  .reaching  distance  of  fire  streams  either 
vertical  or  horizontal. 

To  do  efficient  service  allow  i  Ib.  in  pressure  for  each 
foot  in  distance. 

8.  For  finding  horsepower  of  a  fire  engine. 
Multiply  the  area  of  the  piston  by  the  steam  pressure  in 

pounds  per  square  inch ;  multiply  this  product  by  the  travel 


APPENDIX  409 

of  the  piston  in  feet  per  minute,  divide  this  result  by 
33,000,  and  .7  of  this  quotient  will  be  the  horsepower. 

Example: 

What  would  be  the  horsepower  of  a  fire  engine  with 
cylinders  of  8"'  diameter,  80  Ibs.  steam  pressure,  with  a 
stroke  of  6"  and  traveling  200  revolutions  per  minute? 

8X8  equals  64. 

64  X  .7854  equals  50.2656  area  of  piston. 

50.2656X80  equals  4021.2480. 

6X2  equals  12"  or  i  ft.  travel  of  piston  for  I  revolution. 

1X200  equals  200  ft.  travel  of  piston  per  minute. 

4,021X200  equals  804,200. 

804,200  divided  by  33,000  equals  24.37. 

24.37X7  equals  17.059  horsepower. 

9.    For  obtaining  pump  capacity. 

Square  the  diameter  of  pump  cylinder. 

Multiply  above  product  by  travel  of  piston  in  inches  per 
revolution. 

Then  multiply  this  result  by  constant  .0034. 

This  will  give  the  displacement  of  the  pump  in  gallons 
per  revolution,  less  the  displacement  of  the  plunger  rod, 
which  must  be  deducted  to  get  the  net  displacement. 

To  get  the  displacement  of  plunger  rod. 

Square  the  diameter,  then  multiply  by  the  travel  of  the 
piston  for  y2  revolution,  then  multiply  this  by  the  con- 
stant .0034. 

Example: 

What  is  the  capacity  of  a  pump  having  a  6"  cylinder, 
stroke  9",  plunger  rod  ij<£",  traveling  300  revolutions  per 
minute  ? 

6X6  equals  36. 

9X2  equals  18  inches  travel  for  I  revolution. 

36X18  equals  648  cubic  inches. 

648 X -0034  equals  2.2032  gallons  capacity  per  revolution, 
less  the  displacement  of  the  plunger  rod. 

1.5X1-5  equals  2.25. 

2.25X9  equals  20.25. 


4io  FIRES   AND   FIRE-FIGHTERS 

20.25  X  .0034  equals  .06885,  displacement  in  gallons  of 
plunger  rod. 

2.2032  less  .06885  equals  2.13435  gallons,  net  displace- 
ment per  revolution. 

2.13435X300  equals  640  gallons,  capacity  of  pump. 


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